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!