26 July 2010

10 Questions for Carina

Leslie Linkkila & Philip DiNuovo have been cruising since 2003 aboard Carina, a PAE Mason/Mason 33/33’9” hailing from Kingston, WA, USA. Over those years they have traveled through Mexico, Central America, some of Pacific South America, South Pacific and you can read more about their travels on their website and they can be contacted via email (philipandleslie@sv-carina.org).

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
When we had a near rigging failure in remote Panama, we wished we had more rigging spares: Sta-Lok fittings, wire rope, etc. We’ve rectified that situation and feel we have the right amount of spares of just about everything. Engine parts are important to stock in as are sail repair and canvas supplies.

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?
We wished we could have stayed longer in South America in general and had been able to visit Peru and Chile in particular. We may still get back there.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?
Friends told us that we should give away or sell most everything we owned - our accumulated stuff – since its importance would quickly diminish once we were cruising. They said that we would not even remember what we had or why we kept moving it around with us. They were right. The other thing we were told is that it will cost more to cruise than you would ever think. They were right about that, too.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
There is not much we dislike. Even so, with storage space at a premium, it seems that the tools, parts, etc. that we need are always at the bottom of the storage spaces and we are constantly unpacking and repacking. We knew we would be living in close quarters and limited in our ability to buy “stuff” but that’s part of the appeal, to live more simply but even more richly.

Do friends visit and how often?
We have had fewer visitors than we thought we would have. Les’s family has visited twice, as has one friend. Most friends are busy with their careers and vacation time is limited. Too, now we are so very far away from most of our friends, so visiting is more costly and difficult.

In your experience, how much does cruising cost?
Cruising costs more than most people think since they tend to not include the cost of maintaining their vessels while out here. They also don’t factor in capital expenditures like rebuilding or replacing your engine, replacing a stolen dinghy and outboard motor, re-certifying your liferaft, replacing sails, boatyard visits, etc. We would estimate that we spend about $24k per year including all of the capital expenses. We live incredibly well on this amount of money but we don’t frequent marinas and we rarely dine out because we enjoy cooking (using fresh local ingredients) and eat healthier at home.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?
We maintain a watch day and night. We remember being on a long cruise and enjoying breakfast in our cockpit one day when we noticed a small freighter heading directly towards us. We made a course change and the vessel passed to our port about 100 meters away; the boat was on autopilot and we could see no one in the wheelhouse. Had we not been keeping watch, we could have had a collision with this boat hundreds of miles from any other boat.

During the day, the watch schedule is flexible, depending on chores to be done such as cooking/baking or email/weather/radio nets, or a need for rest, etc. After supper, a three on-three off schedule commences for a period of roughly 13 hours. The 13 hours is because of the time needed to change watch is not counted in the off-watch time. It takes time to make tea, plot our position, discuss weather, hazards, etc. The new three hour watch begins when the off watch physically climbs into the bunk.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds?
We find trading is often difficult because the people we see are often pretty needy so we are somewhat uncomfortable asking for their food. We DO trade, especially if the locals are trading food they have in excess: fish, oranges, bananas, papayas, etc. but then we always give more in the end. Traded or donated goods include powdered milk, powdered cocoa, fishing line, fishing hooks, snorkel equipment, T-shirts and other clothing, rice, canned goods, etc. Individually-wrapped chocolates such as Hershey Nuggets are a real hit for both children (and grownups!) and we have fun watching their faces light up as we give them out.

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?
We can’t say we made too many compromises along the way except for decisions as to which direction to point our bow. We were comfortable with the choice of NOT heading north through the Panama Canal into the Caribbean since that would have entailed about 2 years of cruising in an area of the world we were less interested in.

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

We stressed a bit before leaving the US wondering what we would do for health care/insurance. For the first 3 years of cruising we even paid a LOT of money for catastrophic health coverage and got not a single penny of benefit. What we found in most second and third-world areas is that the cost of health care and prescription drugs is a small fraction of the cost of that in the US and self-insuring makes sense. Not only are the health care professionals comparable to those in the US, many have been educated in the US and have returned to their home countries to practice medicine. What we paid for health insurance for the first three years of our cruise could probably pay for open heart surgery in The Republic of Panama. We now pay out of pocket for our medical care.

19 July 2010

10 Questions for Malua

Harry and Denny Watson Smith cruise aboard Malua, an Adams Bluewater 42 hailing from Sydney, Australia. On their current boat they've been cruising since 2003 including Australia, the Pacific, and Mediterranean. More information can be found on their website and blog and they can be contacted via email (harryws@malua.com.au). Harry says: I have been sailing most of my life in the area of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. This has influenced by outlook to sailing and the type of vessels I will sail on. Since 1986 I have sailed along the east coast of Australia which has similar weather and sea conditions. Malua, my dream boat, was built to suit these conditions however after cruising the Pacific I decided I need more culture than nature so I shipped her to the Mediterranean where we have sailed for four summers. We return after six months crruising to Australia during the northern winter. I volunteer at our local Marine Rescue where I am a coxswain of the rescue lifeboat so I spend quite some time afloat each year. We still maintain our home while cruising.

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

I set about selecting a boat for cruising off the Australian east coast. My previous sailing experience was off the Cape of Good Hope so naturally I chose a very seaworth design. Because I wanted to fit out and rig the vessel myself there were only a few builders in Australia who would only build the hull and deck within my budget. That limited the selection however I chose an Australian designer Joe Adams and had the 42 foot vessel built then transported to my home for completion. I then set about completing my dream boat within three years. Some of the attributes of the boat are;

* Able to sail it single handed with all lines, halyards and controls including reefing all sails to be run to a deep aft cockpit.
* Adequate tankage for water and diesel so that it does not become an issue and water desalination is not a requirement.
* Hard dodger for protection from waves, rain and the wind. This I added after the initial build and cruise.
* Large navigation station with comfortable chair in which one can doze.
* Independent power generating capacity either through a generator, in my case DC or solar panels.

Malua has turned out to be everything I wished for and I would change very little to meet my cruising needs however most of the features are for safety while accommodation, convenience and comfort may rank higher for other cruisers and different cruising areas. One can sail in almost anything with good judgment and planning.

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

I included, at the navigation station, a reclining, swivelling chair. It is ideal while sailing and at anchor. I should have included another executive style chair or easy chair for my wife to use while at anchor. The settee is comfortable but does not have arm rests and is not designed for a relaxing seat.

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

We generally sail shorthanded so the watch system varies depending on the duration of the passage. On anything longer than two nights, a three-hour on and a three-hour off schedule during darkness is followed. Anyone can sleep during the day as long as it works out about equal. I sail single handed on many passages and have a watch commander electronic alarm. In most offshore situations I set it for 27 minutes between alarms. If I wake before it goes off, I reset it for the next cycle and return to sleep. After a few days I get more than enough sleep each day.

Over the years, how much time do you think you spend at anchor, at marinas, sailing and motoring?

We spend by far the greatest time at anchor and consequently the interior design of Malua reflects this. The galley is longitudinal but has a safe corner and a safety strap to hold the cook in place. Meals during rough weather are put together not created so there is no need for confined spaces. Many handholds are a requirement.

On passage is the next longest time. In the Mediterranean it is defiantly motoring while in the Pacific it was sailing.

Marinas and harbours play a very small part in our lives as they are expensive, the chance of damage high and they offer little advantage. If we wish to undertake extensive land travel in the area we use a marina for safety reasons.

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?

On most occasions we spend as long as we need in a location to enjoy the surroundings. Port Davie in Tasmania, Australia is certainly the most beautiful cruising ground while Venice (at anchor at Burano) is the stand out cultural experience of our cruise.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette.

One should contribute to the cruising community in all possible ways. Physical resources are precious to any cruising boat so when you visit make sure you offer something in return for the hospitality. If a part is required offer your spare, it will be replaced many times over. Advice should also be shared when ever possible.

How do you fund your cruise?

Once the boat has been purchased and setup we find we go cruising to save money from the everyday expense of living. We are in the retirement age so we have put some funds away for the next few years. The rate of drawdown varies depending on where we cruise. We may die poor but rich in experience and cruising memories.

How has cruising affected your personal relationships?

The sea uncovers all the weakness in one’s boat, one’s self and one’s relationship. The most difficult is to confront your weakness not necessary when alone but in company with your crew or your partner. We have always used each other strengths to build the relationship which means on the boat I do most of the sailing while Denny’s calm demeanour and sound planning judgement is never at a loss. Having personal space is a very important aspect of a cruising relationship.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising?

Tolerance is the most important personal attribute but a good practical mechanical understanding has to come second. Not only are you able to diagnose problems before they become issues but when something breaks having the ability to fix it on the fly saves money, time and heartbreak. I believe it can be learnt. I have taken things apart or fixed things all my life and this has given me a wealth of experience on which to call when confronted by a part not working or a design issue to be solved.

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 manage your sleep?

I believe this is an import aspect of successful long term cruising. The number of times that we have been at anchor and had to get up in the night to attend to the boat or stand anchor watch because the wind has come up is uncountable. Having the ability to go back to sleep immediately or fall asleep as soon as one gets into the bunk is very important. We have a rule on Malua that we can sleep whenever we are tired, day or night. If after a few days passage and you can’t keep your eyes open we change watches and the person goes to sleep. Having a comfortable bunk is a prerequisite but also getting out of your wet weather gear into suitable sleep gear is essential.

12 July 2010

10 Questions for Long Tall Sally

Greg Lynd and Penny Burgess cruise aboard Long Tall Sally, a Tayana 55 cutter hailing from Carson city, Nevada. They cruised in Mexico from 1999 to 2003, and then the South Pacific, North Pacific, Philippines, and SE Asia from 2006 to the present. They can be reached by email (svlongtallsally@gmail.com). Greg owned a yacht maintenance business and Penny was a physician (anesthesiologist) in their previous lives and they are both members in good standing of Pacific Mariners Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, California.

What is your favorite piece of boating related new technology?
We have recently been introduced to a new software called Bungee invented by Greg Heppenstall. One can overlay previously acquired images from Google Earth with the information from your GPS- enabling the cruiser to see and track the land masses and shoals in real time along his/her route.We found it a great help in our trip from Palawan in the Philippines to Malaysia.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?
I think lots of folks have the mistaken impression that all we cruisers do is swim and frolic in the sun all day- when actually a good definition of " cruising " means "fixing your boat in exotic places"

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?
We both agree that it is good policy to have lived together on the boat for a significant amount of time before embarking on an long voyage together. Don't expect to pack your things, jump aboard and take off before you get the feel of your partners' idiosynchrasies and expectations. Also, it's a good idea to have done some dry runs encompassing such things as anchoring drills (i.e does the captain yell?-or better yet-who is the captain??)

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?
I think we are both agreed that Vanuatu is one of the nicest places we've seen-it has lovely people, good anchorages and great French food!

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds?
Yes, especially in the Soloman Islands. We traded loads of things-clothing,shoes, staples such as sugar, rice, and coffee, and those electronics that we could spare (the young people loved Walkmans and DVDs). The Soloman Islanders are the best carvers in the Pacific-they gain access to goods that are difficult to otherwise obtain and you will come away with some lovely souvenirs of your cruise.

How do you fund your cruise?
We are both retired-we had been living aboard Long Tall Sally since 1994 and making regular forays out to Catalina Island and other places along the west coast of California. We sold some real estate assets and put the money in a stock portfolio. Luckily, we bought Apple shares! So far we've managed to live on the proceeds and my social security (Greg is still too young!)

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
Somewhere I had read that sailing caused one to use a great deal of isometric energy and that one always lost weight when on a long cruise-i.e. constantly using muscles to maintain balance on a moving platform-Don't believe it!!

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
I love the fact that one is constantly meeting new and interesting people-often of very disparate ages and interests. The cruising family is replete with individualists. Many of these people become lifelong friends and one keeps in touch no matter in what direction you each head off. But sometimes, you say "so long"or "Fair winds" to someone that you never lay eyes on again for whatever reason and that is sad!

How did you secure your valuables (in and on your vessel) while going ashore? And your dinghy?
Boats have many "hidey holes" and most sailors we know secure their valuables that way. It seems that the poorer the country, the fewer the break-ins. Sometime other cruisers will warn people that such and such an anchorage is not safe and we lock our boats-but for the most part we leave the boat unlocked- as a really determined thief can get into most any boat. The dinghy is a little different -we look at it as our"car" and as such a very valuable asset. We lock our motor to the dinghy and try to secure the dinghy when it is ashore. At night we hoist it out of the water to deter thieves.

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

Perhaps you might have asked "How long do you plan on being "out there"?

To that rhetorical question I would have to say-"Till it's no longer fun!"

05 July 2010

10 Questions for Zia

Christy, Joe, Cassie and Juliana cruised aboard Zia, a Sud Composites Switch 51 hailing from Annapolis, MD. Their cruise lasted from July of 2005 until March of 2010 and during that time they cruised through the US East Coast, Caribbean, Bahamas, Atlantic, and all through the Mediterranean. At the time of this interview's publication, their boat is for sale. More information about their cruise and their boat can be found on their website.

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

Kids are amazingly adaptable. They can do most anything you ask them to do and love to make you proud by doing it. The cruising life is great for developing a kid's sense of independence and their confidence. Make them part of the team. Give them as much independence as you can. Teach them to drive the dinghy and help sail the boat.

What is something that you looked forward to about cruising when you were dreaming, that is as good or even better than imagined?

The opportunities you have when you are cruising - to meet people, to explore places, to discover new things - are so much richer than I could have ever imagined. In fact, you find you don't always have the energy to take full advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to you. You learn to pursue the things that you enjoy the most, but we also loved to delve into new and unexplored territory. Learn something new every day - it keeps you young!

What are your impressions of the cruising community?

The cruising community is a mixed bag, just like every other group of people. It is always easier to meet other Americans, or Canadians or British, because of the language barrier. I would have liked to have meet more Europeans and embraced every opportunity to socialize with a more diverse crowd. Beware of taking advice from other cruisers. Other people's perceptions are always different from what you will experience. I can't tell you how many times we went someplace someone had loved and hated it or vice versa. They are usually right when they talk about the anchoring conditions but take everything else with a grain of salt.

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

Georgetown, Bahamas. You hear so much about this cruisers' paradise but we found it to be an overcrowded anchorage full of busy bodies! Of course, our kids loved it, and it really is fantastic for socializing, and it is GORGEOUS, but too many people get stuck there and never venture beyond to the hundreds of spectacular anchorages within easy day-sailing distance.

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

Joe and I did plenty of five or six night passages ourselves. We stood long watches - Joe taking it from about 8 or 9pm until midnight or 1am and then I would be on until 7am or so. I went to sleep after dinner and then again in the morning and easily got my eight hours of sleep in two chunks. Of course, we had mostly mild conditions and if it had been worse, we probably would have shortened up the watch schedule. For our two Atlantic crossings, we brought along an extra watch-stander and divied it up into three hour shifts.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?

Our worst passage by far was our first ocean passage with the Caribbean 1500 from Norfolk, VA to Tortola, BVI. We had three or four days of 40 to 45 knot winds ahead of the beam. This perfectly illustrates the dangers of participating in cruising rallies. Although they say that they will postpone departure for adverse weather, there is a huge amount of pressure on the organizers to stick to the original plan. We left in no wind and by day three or four were pounding into it. When you plan your departures yourself, you can pick your weather window more wisely.

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?

This is really a question for Joe as he always keeps the boat running in top form. I was responsible for keeping the galley well stocked and I took my job very seriously! We have a big freezer and refrigerator on Zia so are able to carry plenty to keep five well fed for a month at least. Of course, we had loads of cans too, just in case!

What is your biggest lesson learned?

Slow down, take your time, ENJOY. That boat project will be waiting for you when you come back. I also found that we didn't have to do everything the way everyone else does it. We actually sail upwind when that is the direction our desired destination lies. We are spending this hurricane season along the Caribbean coast of Mexico so our kids can go to a bi-lingual school here.

How do you fund your cruise?

Joe and I owned our own computer business for 15 years. Never knowing how good the next year would be, we were always very conservative with our money. We sold the business nine months before we left cruising. We had a payment from that sale for the first five years of our cruising. We also own two rental properties that generate a monthly income. We are very fortunate not to have to worry too much about a budget. That said, you spend a lot less money cruising than you do living in the States. No car or car insurance, telephone or cable bill, electricity, gas, dry cleaning, etc. You need a plentiful wardrobe of bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts. It's wonderful.

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

Do you ever regret your decision to leave everything and go cruising? NEVER!

01 July 2010

Readers Weigh In - Open Discussion

Happy Canada Day!

15 interviews have been published on the site. What (if anything) have you learned? What surprised you?

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.