Kjell O. Stave cruised through the Caribbean and South Pacific with Daryl from 2005-2008 aboard Spetakkel, an Ericson 29 built in 1973 and hailing from Farsund, Norway. You can read more on his website or send him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Kjell says: I started out cruising with 14 hours experience in a 24 footer, my crew and friend had no experience at all. This was not a perfect scenario but with a lot of help and humble attitude towards tips/help from the fellow cruisers this was not really a problem.
Share a piece of cruising etiquette
Try to bring your own drink (sometimes food as well) when going to someone else’s boat for dinner. Most cruisers are on a budget.
What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
The cruising culture is constantly evolving but the constant seems to be that people are always helpful and willing to help/share experiences and personal time. It is a lot harder for find something negative that is constant about the community, I really can’t think of anything right now
In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?
I guess most of the people I met never really stopped cruising they simply took a break to work on refilling the cruising kitty or went home to reproduce themselves.
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Buy a new engine!, I had a great atomic 4 gasoline engine and although it was quite easy to fix, it broke down way to many times to be funny. It also used way too much gasoline. I don’t have experience with diesel engines but if you are going to cruise for 3 or more years I would have a good look at the engine and see if a new one (maybe electric?) would pay itself over the years in consumption or maintenance/stress.
What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
I think I would have to say the sails (except the engine of course) because I did not experience much else breaking more than once. At the same note I would like to brag of the Monitor self steering, it more or less worked perfectly for over 10.000 Nm.
What have been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or expensive about each area?
At anchor, underway somewhere or wherever you are that is not in a marina will always be the cheapest but for provisioning Panama, Colombia or Ecuador will be your best bet in the Caribbean/Pacific. In the Pacific the Society Islands and Tahiti can be expensive but do stock up because this is that last stop where there is a choice until you reach Vanuatu. An interesting thing about French Polynesia is that if you stick to the staple French things like baguettes, cheese and wine you can live quite reasonable as they are the cheap items there.
Over the years, how much time do you think you spend at anchor, at marinas, sailing and motoring?
Anchor 80%, Marinas 3%, Sailing 15%, Motoring 2%
Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?
The Galapagos. It is hard to get permission etc to stay in the Galapagos islands for a long time but one month is not a long time there (they only give you ten days), stay as long as you can. It might be expensive to keep bribing the officials to be able to stay but it is worth it. If it get’s a bit dodgy try sailing to another port/island and feel out the new port captain (maybe say you have engine problems?).
With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
For me it is all about how much $$ I have but ideally I would have a closet for wet clothes immediately inside, new engine, hard dodger, wind vane or oversized autopilot, windlass that works, lots of chain, two solar panels and place to store 12 months of supplies when I find a cheap place to make provisioning.
What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
Where on the internet can you find a good list (easy to read not just a list) of the cruising guides that are available? I would not know.
Kjell was kind enough to answer two follow-up questions I posed to him:
What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free?
I think I would have to say a water maker, I did just fine with my small tanks but in many places it was a pain to get water and some places almost impossible to find good tasting water. The water maker would also make my partner very happy as we would be able to take more and longer showers, wash clothes and maybe even the boat with the knowledge that we don't have to haul the water we use from a town supply somewhere. A water maker would also enable me to stay in places like the San Blas or other really great but remote places for longer periods of time.
Describe the compromises (if any) that you have made in your cruising in order to stay on budget
It is more easy to say what I had than what I did not have. I had 4 gps's (two in the end), a bad engine, wind vane, depth sounder, two burner cook top, dingy with engine and all the necessary safety gear.
My philosophy was that I should leave with what I had and then buy along the way if I found that I really needed something. I had some money. My dilemma was not unlike a lot out there that once you have set sail and left your job behind the kitty will decide how long/far you can go. If I had spent 1000 dollars on a small radar I would have a radar but I would have had to go back home and work one month earlier than planned.
In the end I ended up purchasing nothing except a gas cook top instead of the alcohol one. I am an electrician and love all the new and old gadgets but I could never justify losing precious time from my sailing adventure for a gadget.
If I cast off and leave for distant shores again I would probably end up doing the same again, go simple and maybe you can go now!