Scott & Kitty Kuhner (along with Alex and Spencer on their 4 year circumnavigation) cruise aboard Tamure, a Valiant 40 hailing from Rowayon, CT, USA. From 1971 –1974 they completed their 1st circumnavigation via South Africa; from 1987-1991 their 2nd circumnavigation via the Red Sea; and having been cruising again from 2001 – present including an Atlantic Circle from 2003-2005, spending winters in the Bahamas and the summers in Connecticut or Maine. You can view slideshows online of each of their big trips: first, second, third and reach them via email (email@example.com) is ideal).
Describe a "typical day" on passage on your boat
With just the two of us on a passage every 10 minutes or so one of us goes on deck to take a look around. If either of us wants to take a nap, we let the other know and they agree and assume the watch. We do not sail Tamure as though we are in a race. We set the sail, let her settle into a groove and set the windvane self-steering gear. We usually have a SSB radio schedule with other boats on the same passage; one in the morning at 8am local and another in the evening at about 6pm local. A Typical day might be as follows: At 8 AM we do the morning radio sked. After the sked, Kitty makes breakfast either of eggs and toast or cold cereal. We then tuck into a book. At around 10:30 we have a mid morning snack of coffee and a donut or a similar treat. Lunch is usually a sandwich. After lunch one of us may take a nap while the other reads and keeps checking the compass heading and getting up to look around. We normally only attend to the sails if the wind has either changed direction or intensity. (Coming across the Atlantic from the Cape Verdes to St Maarten in the fall of 2004, it seemed as though a squall came through almost every day so we went with a polled out storm jib and a double reefed main. When the wind went up to 30+ knots we were barreling along at 6.5 kts, and after the squall, up and change the sails every time the wind dropped or increased because we were cruising and if it took an extra day to get to St Maarten, what the heck.) After the the wind would drop to 10 – 15 kts and we would do 4 to 4.5 kts. We did not get evening radio sked Kitty would cook dinner and I would wash the dishes. Then I would take the first watch from 8pm to midnight and Kitty would take it from Midnight to 4am; I would take it from 4 to 6 am and Kitty would take it from 6 to 8 am, when we would talk with our other cruising friends on the morning radio sked.
Share a piece of cruising etiquette
Don’t anchor too close to another boat, and if you do anchor close to someone else always ask them if they feel comfortable with your position. If they say no then we move. After all they were there first. When coming into a dinghy dock, always tie up with a long enough painter so that the next person can get his dinghy into the dock to unload. Also, if it is a crowded dock, do not raise your outboard motor up; because, then it may punch a hole in someone else’s dinghy.
Whenever we see a boat flying a foreign flag in our home waters, we always go over and invite them for drinks because when we have been in foreign waters others have treated us very well and we want to return the hospitality; beside they are usually very interesting people to get to know. As they say, “Your next best friend is only an anchorage away”. Also always be quick to lend a helping hand.
When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
On our first circumnavigation (1971-1974) in our 30 foot Seawind Ketch we were only five hundred miles from home when we got caught in an early July 70 + kt hurricane between Cape Hatteras and Bermuda and, while lying a-hull with no sail up, suffered a knockdown. As we fell off a huge wave in the middle of the night, we hit the trough of the wave and the impact blew off our main hatch, grab rails, dodger, and windvane, bent the main boom and ripped off half the main sail. When we righted, the water was up to the level of the bunks down below. But, as I say in our slide show of that trip, “we were fortunate enough to have the most efficient bilge pump in the world; a frightened woman with a bucket!!” Luckily we keep our life raft in the cockpit covered with a piece of plywood, so we hadn’t lost the life raft. Had it been on the cabin top it would not have survived. As I looked at the life raft, it calmed me down a bit. I then took the plywood, which conveniently fit over the open hatch, and bolted it down to keep more water from coming in. By mid morning the wind was back down to a mere 30 kts and we sailed the rest of the way to New York with the jib and mizzen. At the time it was all happening, we didn’t panic; we just did what we had to, to save the boat. It wasn’t until the storm was over that we began to realize what a dangerous position we had been in.
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
On our first circumnavigation in the early 70s, No one told us what to do or what to expect. Our only knowledge came from a few books we had read. There were no cruising guides or anything like that. Consequently, we never knew what to expect when we got to a destination and as a result the sense of adventure and discovery was truly wonderful and exciting. My advice to others planning a long cruise is, “Get off the beaten path. As then you will experience the adventure of cruising.
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?
We had read “Around the World in Wander III” and “Beyond the West Horizon” by Eric and Susan Hiscock. They talked about running down wind by poling out two head sails. We adopted that strategy and had two spinnaker poles mounted on the mast that we used to poll out a set of twin jibs that we hanked on the head stay. We sailed 60% of both our circumnavigations with twin jibs polled out. Sten and Breta Homedahl on the boat Fijording, whom we met in St Thomas at the start of the first trip, gave us a great piece of advice. They asked us why we were off cruising and after hearing our answer, they said, “You are describing the Pacific. Don’t waste your time in the Caribbean. Head straight for Panama and do the Caribbean on the way back!” We took their advice and are very glad we did.
What has been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or expensive about each area?
We never really thought about how expensive one area was over another. We just lived rather frugally everywhere. On our first trip we never ate out until we got to Bali and found it was cheaper to go to the little restaurant in Benoa harbor than it was to open a can of Dinty Moore’s Beef Stew.
What is the key to making the cruising life enjoyable?
Relax! You are not in a race so don’t keep at your wife to trim the sails. If the wind picks up and your wife suggests reefing the sails, don’t argue with her, just do it. After all, you have all the time in the world so lay back and enjoy the trip. Besides, your boat will sail better and faster when she is upright rather than healed over 25 degrees. I always take the attitude that another day I have; but, another mast I don’t have.
If doing a long distance cruise like an Atlantic Circle or a circumnavigation, DO NOT make a pre planned itinerary and then arrange to have friends meet you at a specific place at a specific time. You will end up having to go to sea in bad weather or you may miss an invitation from a local family to join them in a feast. If friends want to meet you somewhere on your cruise, tell them that they can pick the time or the place; but, not both.
Don’t be afraid of leaving your old friends at home; because, as I mentioned above, “Your next best friend is only an anchorage away!” Also get to know the local people and make friends with them. After all one of the reasons we all go cruising is to meet people of other cultures and gain a better understanding of the rest of the world. And once again, “Get off the beaten path!”
What is difficult for the parents of cruising children and what is difficult for the children themselves?
On our second circumnavigation 1987-1991, we had our two sons on board with us and we home schooled them. There was nothing difficult about having them aboard. On the contrary, it was a blessing and they opened many doors for us in exotic villages. They always seemed to make friends with the local kids. For example, when we were in Marovo Lagoon in the Salomon Islands, we bought the kids a dugout canoe from a local family and then, after doing their home school every day, they would have canoe races with the local kids. In the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama, they made friends with a couple of local kids and had them on board to play with Legos. If you have children with you, you will undoubtedly meet other cruisers with kids you kids ages. Make friends with those families and if they suggest getting off the beaten path and going to some out of the way island, ask to join them; or if you decide to go off to another island, ask then to join you. Your kids will love the cruising life if they have friends to play with; just as you enjoy being with people you like. We knew one couple who always went off on their own and their kids never had the chance to make and be with their friends. Those kids were miserable and hated cruising.
What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We made a plan. We said to ourselves, “OK, if we want to go cruising next year (or in x number of years) what do we have to do to be able to go?” Then we completed one step at a time always knowing that if things changed we didn’t have to go. As we accomplished each step, the momentum grew and before we knew it, we were casting off the lines! Also don’t have any debt. We never had any car loans, credit card or any other type of debt, including on the boat. We paid cash for everything and we always had savings and that gave us the freedom to leave.
What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
How much money does it cost to go cruising?
I can answer that to the penny: however much money you have!! When we did our circumnavigation with our kids back in 1987 – 1991, we spent on average about $1,800 per month. We were friends with another family on a 72 foot boat who had a little girl about our kids’ age and they told us they had spent close to $3 million on a four year circumnavigation. We were also friends with a couple who had a son our son’s age and they spent on average $800 per month. We all sailed to most of the same places and had many of the same adventures; except, the $3million family would fly from a port to visit some exotic place inland, and had very expensive wine on board, and the $800/month family walked or took buses everywhere, while we would sometimes rent a car to travel inland. We all had the same amount of fun and adventures and all three families loved the cruising life.
In closing, let me pass on what I say to friends who are about to go off cruising, “You may think you are going to have a good time; but, you really don’t know. You have no idea how GREAT a time you WILL have.”