26 December 2011

10 Questions for Delos

delos3 Christine Myers and Stephan Regulinski are on their second Amel SuperMaramu 2000 (53’ ketch). The first was Delos hailing from San Francisco, CA, USA and now Hanalei, hailing from Kailua, HI, USA. They cruised from 2000-2005 and will begin cruising again in 2012. On their first cruise they visited Turkey, Mediterranean Europe, Atlantic Europe, North Sea, British Isles, Ireland, Scandinavia, Canary Islands, Morocco, Gambia, Cape Verde, Caribbean, Panama, Galapagos, South Pacific, & New Zealand. You can read more about them on their website or at their blog.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?

  • Colleges are going to love that your kids made this trip.
  • Your family will become very close.
  • This is not a vacation; it’s a way of life. Save something for the next trip.
  • It takes six months to adjust.
  • Don’t rely so much on the internet in port or e-mails at sea.
  • Just about every port in Europe has a different kind of plug.
  • What happens at sea does not stay at sea.
  • Tahiti is overrated, overpriced and overcrowded.

What has been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive?

Turkey was least expensive, along with La Gomera (Canaries) and West Africa.

Norway; Porto Cervo, Sardinia; and French Polynesia were the most expensive.

delos1 Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?

Solar panels.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?

We sort of won the lottery the first time; this time we are selling the house.

What is something you like about the cruising culture and something you dislike?

I love the openness, friendliness and mutual support of the international cruising culture. I dislike the focus on alcohol, especially in the Caribbean and South Pacific.

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

More energy-efficiency. But having said that, we just bought another boat and it’s exactly the same. I would consider length vis-a-vis European dock length pricing.

delos2Describe a ‘typical day’ on passage on your boat.

It takes us about three days to adjust to passage time. Before that we’re all a little spacey while adapting to passage time. Typically I would stand the early morning watch, put out fishing lines, then do roll call on the net at 8. Kids will be up later. They’ll do schoolwork or read, depending on how rough it is. Back to sleep until noon or so, then up for the next watch. Chop vegetables in the afternoon and work on meal prep, check fishing lines. Dinner at 6. Everyone except watchstander goes to bed early, soon after dinner.

How did you gain offshore experience prior to leaving?

We crewed on friends’ boat from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.

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


When you meet another compatible kid boat, change your plans and hang out together. They don’t have to be the same age. Social interactions become incredibly important.

Try to get some homeschooling experience before you leave, and at least make sure you have good supportive resources. Don’t get stuck with set curriculum or try to recreate a classroom.

Adapt curriculum to your cruising experience and kids’ learning style.

Be flexible and creative about when ‘school time’ happens.

What question do you wish I had asked you … and how would you answer it?

How did your kids adapt? What were their challenges?

Here I’d point you to the blog because the topic is too big.

31 October 2011

10 Questions for Leander

leander2 Paul Robertson, Sima Baran, and Alexander Robertson have been cruising since 2007 aboard Leander, a Bristol 41 hailing from  Boston, Massachusetts, United States. They have taken a circumnavigation route, starting in Boston, heading down the U.S. east coast, through the Panama Canal, through the Pacific Ocean and Islands, visiting New Zealand, Australia, SE Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and are now in the Eastern Mediterranean. Readers can read about their adventures on their website.

They say: Paul is originally from Boston, and Sima from Istanbul, Turkey. We met when we were both working in Boston. We had only modest prior sailing experience, and we started cruising as a husband and wife team of two shortly after we bought the boat, our first, and got married. We’ve since been joined by a third crew member, our young son Alexander, who was born in November 2010. 

Why did you decide to cruise?
We were both working long hours, Paul as an attorney and Sima a management consultant. We thought that our all-enveloping careers were causing us to miss out on other meaningful aspects of life. For two non-sailors, the prospect of sailing across oceans to far-away lands posed a particularly exciting challenge, and would be a good way for us to see a bit more of the bigger picture.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Most marine vendors do not share your goal of having quality work done at a reasonable price. Learn to do as much as possible on your boat, and be vigilant in those situations when you must pay for parts or services. Time and again we’ve paid for work that was both overpriced and deficient, and typically found we have no recourse after the fact. Who cares about you – you’re sailing away to the next port! With a little bit of practice, reading, and speaking to others, you will ALWAYS do a better job than someone with less of a vested interest in the outcome. When others must be called in, define the scope of the work as concretely and narrowly as possible, get things in writing, and watch the work like a hawk.

Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed?
Useful information available for cruisers on the Internet has exploded. Sites like IWAC, “Wiki Cruising,” and the numerous blogs and photos posted by other cruisers are providing a more complete picture of the cruising life and potential cruising grounds.

Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited?
The people on the island of Tanna, in Vanuatu, were exceptional. In the place of TV, the internet, and consumerism, there were nightly kava rituals, community meetings, and a family garden. And the islanders reached out to us. During our three-week stay, Paul drank kava and played soccer with the local men and Sima learned to weave mats with the local women. It was pleasant, relaxing, and magical.

What is something that you were dreading about cruising when you were dreaming, that is as bad or worse than imagined?
The amount of work we need to do to keep the boat in shape. Non-cruisers sometimes don’t get it, and when we tell them of how much time we are spending on fixing this or maintaining that, they wonder if our boat is a “lemon.” But we’re all out here doing the same thing. The ocean environment beats on things, and although our boat is one-tenth of the size of the house that we lived in before we left, it is ten times as much work. Really.

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
Traversing Pirate Alley – the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the start of the Red Sea. We made the passage in 2010 after concluding that the odds were strongly in our favor. But our hearts were still in our throats for the month and half it took to get through. In light of the subsequent attacks, we wouldn’t do that that trip now. And as we think back, maybe all the preparation we did gave us nothing but false comfort, and was an attempt to control things over which we had, in retrospect, no control.

How has cruising affected your personal relationship?
We figure that one year of life together on the boat is the equivalent of about seven years of life on land. All the time together has accelerated the pace of our relationship. Challenges that might have developed five or ten years down the line had we been together less, have become manifest more quickly. But we’ve also been able to develop tools to anticipate and resolve problems at the same quickened pace. So, in the end, we’re in a better place. (Said another way, laughs Sima, although I’ve become more accurate at throwing frying pans, Paul has become just a little more adept at ducking them!)

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?
We have found that watches of less than four hours are not practical for us because we each need sleep in chunks that are at least that long. We are both on watch during the day. Sima takes watch from 8 p.m. to midnight, Paul from midnight to 4 a.m., Sima from 4 a.m. until Paul awakes in the morning, and Paul from that time until Sima awakes later in the morning. But this was before young Alexander joined us, and we will perhaps need to modify this.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette.
Bend over backwards to be polite to others. You’ll find people on the water who are willing to mix it up with you if you’re game, but it is a draining game. Try to assume the best. Smile and wave at the next boat you encounter, even if the three before didn’t return your greeting. Accept that the boat has anchored a little close. They couldn’t find a better spot, probably. And don’t you remember? Last time that was you.

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

leander1 What has it been like cruising with an infant son?

Challenging! We figured that with Alexander, we’d have one less person with a free hand, but he often takes us both out of commission. So things take twice as long as before. For us, an “early” start now means 10:00 a.m. And we don’t do drinks with others at sundown so much anymore. But he loves to hike with us, and we can strap him to our back and go explore, one of our favorite things to do. We certainly wouldn’t want it any other way.

24 October 2011

10 Questions for Brillig

brilligrna Rika and Andrew have been cruising for more than a decade aboard Brillig, a 31ft “Trewis” (means nice and cosy} steel yacht built in Holland 1960. She has sailed 53,000 miles with me and will soon be ready to go again on completion of the present major refit. Andrew is an artist.

What are some of my favourite pieces of gear and why?
Andrew:  The ARIES VANE GEAR. This piece of gear is by far the most influential in our cruising life. Alice as she is fondly known has now crossed the Atlantic eight times with only the plywood vanes breaking. Each long passage the steering lines have been replaced, consequently none have broken. Alice has just had a rebuild after 53,000 miles involving replacement of the bushes, sheaves and blocks. She has performed faultlessly in extreme conditions, and can be made to steer off the apparent wind when powering out of high pressure on ocean passages at least long enough to make a cup of tea. All she asks for is regular twice daily oil and a chunk of grease on the bevel gears every few days. We only occasionally need to steer when under power or entering port, for the rest of the time this water powered wind sensitive miracle of engineering unfailingly guides us to our next anchorage. We don’t have an electric auto pilot.

My SEXTANT allows freedom to sail where you will. The GPS is on all the time we are sailing and certainly has a home aboard, however it could shut down for any number of reasons. The sextant allows us to be independent and self-contained, conditions that lie at the very core of ocean cruising. Long passages can be boring, traditional navigation is an enjoyable occupation giving an enormous sense of satisfaction even when competing with a GPS.

trillig Grundig yacht boy radio receiver. This small radio receiver can pick up the all-important SSB weather information, accurate time signals and provide endless entertainment. When cruising the Atlantic it is very interesting to listen to weather routing for yachts, there are so many of us out there we can invariably listen in to a daily report from another yacht in our region.

Two 100m warps. One is nylon for stretch the other polyester. I love these two pieces of rope because they have got us out of trouble so many times. The 19mm nylon used to extend the anchoring depth when needed. Berthing in small fishing ports has often needed anchors and warps to feel secure when the weather deteriorates. Unexpected grounding allows me to place a kedge anchor well into deep water. Joined together they make a big enough bight to stream astern when running before the wind in heavy following seas. 200m is enough to induce a break far enough astern to avoid being pooped, most of the time!

  1. Taylor’s paraffin (gimbaling) cooker – Always safe to put a cup of tea at sea. Without this, I couldn’t survive life on board; I managed to stay on board for 13 years because I got interested in cooking.
  2. Wind vane –Let us rest and sleep when sailing. We call that “Alice”, she manages to steer Brillig as long as there is wind, very reliable gear. Andrew often oils Alice, keeping her smooth.
  3. 35lb genuine CQR anchor – Always holding us, the insurance. We survived a minor flood, gales, storms.

What pieces of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Andrew:  The sheet winches. Brillig no longer has a cockpit well. The present simple winches are not big enough and do not self-tail; this makes it difficult for me to sheet in the headsail and virtually impossible for my 90lb wife.

Rika:  Aluminium oars– Totally crap! In Spain, in August 2010, our newer Avon dinghy (we had 2 the same) with outboard bracket, varnished oars were stolen and I bought cheaper aluminium ones next day. They slip, rotate and even lose plastic paddle parts when I want to row against the currant with carrying 40 litres of water!

Head sail sheets – We bought good quality sheets in America but it can’t go through on the metric English block very well!
Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?
Andrew:  The Azores. These Portuguese islands are so yacht friendly, beautiful and fascinating to cruise I could easily spend another year or six there. The major ports are full of ocean sailors while the smaller harbours are a fascinating insight into the Azorean way of life. These coastal villages are where you may need some long ropes and some short lengths of chain to prevent chafe when berthing.

Rika:  The Azores – If I didn’t have to worry about the Visa, we could have stayed longer and could have avoided the Knock-down. Those islands are so beautiful and its’ mild climate makes our life on board easier. All people we have met are sailors, many characters, very interesting to exchange the stories. There are plenty of concerts to attend, food is fantastic and lovely Azorian Portuguese people I love.

Andrew:  On two occasions Brillig has been knocked down on trans-Atlantic voyages. At 31’ she is a small boat and does not have wind instruments. I decide when to reef based on how the boat is handling usually when the lee toe rail is going under. The effect of increasing wind and sea is very difficult to judge especially when running down wind, one moment you are making good time the next your over. The first occasion at around 40 degrees North on the way to the Acores from the Caribbean a good summer gale struck, I kept going since it blew from the west a big wave broached us. A fair amount of water got in but no serious damage.

The second time was due to gear failure, namely the slides on our mainsail. Hove to south of the Azores in gale force conditions all was well until the top slide on the deep reefed mainsail popped with seven more going in short order. That failure sparked of a chain of events ultimately leading to a knockdown in heavy breaking seas.

Both events were bad, I felt the taste of fear, but survived and felt more confident in dealing with severe conditions. The good side of these experiences is when things begin to ease off. Fear has passed; the sea is in a grand mood offering some of the best sailing I know.

  1. Knock-down. The article was published in Yachting Monthly November 2007. Two pressure systems (just 200 NM south of Faial, the Azores) made gale and big sea conditions more than we expected. UV damaged main sail slides popped to flap the main sail was the start, Brillig couldn’t face to the weather well and one wave rolled us from quarter port stern in the midnight, Andrew flew to the deck head and landed on my bunk. There were 10 items damaged or lost. The most serious one was drinking water. It was scarier when we realized what happened to us. 
  2. The passage from Georgetown, South Carolina, USA to Tortola the British Virgin Islands, we were against the Trade wind for 2 weeks. Brillig was constantly dropped to the lower side of the waves but never stop going. We both lost weight because those impacts and motions; hitting the green water made the saucepan on the cooker jump. 
  3. The last trip from Galicia to Falmouth, we had force 9 in the middle of the Biscay. We hove-to for 26 hours as Brillig didn’t slow down even Andrew changed the sail 3 times that day. However, Brillig managed to maintain her position just southerly wind area to keep going north to Falmouth. 

Andrew:  A lot, the worst mistake was to convince myself the land I could see was the Tiede a huge Volcano on Tenerife the Canary Islands often visible for 40 miles according to my pilot. Navigating with a sextant from Lisbon this was the longest ocean passage to date. The volcano was the object of my greatest desire. With very little wind I fired up the old Sabb and chugged towards our destination. The day wore on and more features appeared, more or less as described. Delighted to have found land I kept going confident everything was correct. When 3miles offshore breakers were spotted ahead. That was when the panic hit, this should be a clear passage along the coast to Santa Cruz no reefs were shown on my chart, in fact neither was the island seen for the past few hours. Tiredness and the overwhelming desire to get in I had made the information fit. There was a volcano and it seemed big to me. One moment confident of our position the next lost. Offshore I could see the people driving along the coast road and fishermen out working. Arriving 20 miles to the east of my position could be described as not too bad after a week at sea, Gran Canary turned out to be a great place. Exhaustion and accepting often small discrepancies in information available is how this happened. From then on I have been very careful when making landfall after a long passage, especially getting a good sleep before the last night. Even now we have GPS.

Not stowing the boat carefully enough, the first bit of rough weather demonstrates if it can move it will! Stuff banging and rattling is almost impossible to sort out at sea. It can add to the misery felt in bad weather trying to deal with this in an already difficult situation. Anything that helps the crew to keep rested and able should be done, time well spent.

  1. When we were in Portugal before sailing to the Canaries, I was too shy to express myself; I didn’t like to socialize. I luck lots of confidence, I wasn’t comfortable enough to my English, I wasn’t comfortable to boat life; I simply didn’t know where to start.
  2. Waiting forever; I have learned if I didn’t push myself, nothing would happen or come to me. When I couldn’t row the dinghy, I always had to ask Andrew to take me ashore, I didn’t have my freedom. I had to learn handling the dinghy, tying and keeping her safe until I came back; rowing, correct knots, movement of the wind and the tide; then I could go out whenever I wanted. These activities were nothing to Andrew but enormous effort for me at that time.
  3. Change my mind to be more philosophical; boat is always moving even when anchored so that everything I do should be slower than usual otherwise one thing or mistake brings problems and it could make a snow-ball effect.
  4. Organizing the cabin - Andrew always tells me to tidy up otherwise our cabin looks smaller and we can’t find the thing we need that moment.
  5. Without any experience or knowledge, I had to believe what Andrew said about everything, but what he said and what I felt or thought were very different. He said that crossing the Atlantic would be very nice but what I felt was uncomfortable all the time. Years later, getting used to uncomfortableness and controlling seasickness I understood what he meant. Beginners never feel the same as those who went sea many times.

Rika:  Not only at sea, even at anchor we have to manage with what we have got because of living in the nature. Not enough water, not enough fuel, not enough food but if the weather was so bad we can’t get what we need. Always checking the weather and prepare for it. Whatever the situation would be, there seems usually a solution.

trilligartist Boating, cruising is expensive for yachties. As we don’t get jobs in other countries, keeping cruising fund for unknown time schedule is impossible. Priority goes to keep the boat float and safe so we naturally save the money for food but there is limit to do this. We are lucky to have skills, Andrew paints watercolour and I play piano classical music to make exhibitions wherever we are and if these events brought us some money we could keep going for another while. I have learned how to eat with very little money. I have a book about my cruising life experience, mainly about food and cooking.

Andrew:  Changing from a life driven by the clock and schedules directed by work/family to one where the weather and seasons dictate your movements. To be comfortable with this does not come quickly, perhaps years. Once there I discovered a wonderful sense of natural order within myself and chosen lifestyle, harmony often missing in the hum drum shore life of today. Sailing for me is all about natures forces; time is determined by the passing seasons.

Rika:  Yes, we do just go and arrive at a new place after researching the information from cruising and navigation books then will find out how the place would be. Our cruise started, visiting where Andrew had been before. But after some years, wondering where to go next, other sailors bring us idea to visit somewhere they have been or they have heard of, to enjoy the view, culture and climate of the place.

Andrew:  Getting as much information as possible from other cruisers and pilot books is always best. Mistakes can be very stressful.

Arriving in Brazil my wife did not have the correct visa. We were told to leave within three days. Having just completed 30 days at sea with many problems, mainly the mast delaminating this was a very bad situation with the nearest port outside of Salvador Brazil around 1000 miles whichever way you went. The solution was a three day bus trip to Fos da Iguacu where Argentina, and Paraguay touch Brazil. Having the right information leads to a happy cruising couple arriving and finding out is best avoided.

  1. To be professional foreigners; do not argue with local peoples’ traditions, not force our traditions, to learn their culture, custom, language and habit and their food, we somehow get along with natives.
  2. For safety, we stow sterilized liquid (baby bottle cleaner) when we are not sure about the quality of the water.
  3. It is important not to be fussy eaters and to try local recipes. It brings you problems and unhappiness if you can eat only particular food.
  4. Open mind to visitors; all sailors have different points of view, different way of speech and different ways to solve the same problems. Respect each other not to criticize straight away, especially how they look like.
Andrew:  Having a strong eyelet fitted around the mainsails centre of effort.
When sailing in light conditions with any kind of swell the boom is always on a vang, this will stop you getting brained but it does not stop the main collapsing causing loss of power and a slow passage getting slower. One of the running poles is rigged in the mainsails lee and a very thick piece of bungee cord and rope joined are tied to the C.E. eyelet and hauled outboard on the pole. This has the effect of holding the sails shape when rolling and has proved very effective.

Rika:  A reluctant partner was made by a wimpish captain, saying that you must learn sailing, what would you do if I were over-board? Sailing is entirely for men’s business, women I have met during my 13 years of cruise, never thought they were going to live and cruise on a yacht with their partners. The captain shouldn’t hustle their non-experience partner to become the Ellen McArthur within weeks of preparing time. Blame yourself, Captain! Also the partner should acknowledge that there is only 1 captain necessary in one boat. Andrew is the captain and he says I am the Admirable.

A good way to start learning sailing is to have very boring sailing experience; a sunny day with not much wind on a calm conditions; which gives everybody confidence on board. Living on a boat for a while makes person familiar to the facilities on a yacht. Gently and slowly start combining the life on the land and boat; the difference is huge and sailors don’t understand how the beginners feel about. Don’t read or give too much scary stories of sailing before you start your cruise.

I didn’t have time or choice to say no to Andrew when he decided to leave England. My choice was to stay with my mother-in-law until Andrew arrived at Madeira and flew to catch him up or to go with him like a passenger as he could do everything. As both seemed to hell to me I decided to go, it seemed better to try a new hell experience. I believe I was right.

Once I learned and saw Andrew’s ability to be a captain and Brillig’s integrity – trusting Andrew and Brillig after 3,000 NM, my seasickness decreased and liking travelling on a yacht grew. However, I am THE reluctant partner; I went, so anybody could. Though I am willing to take Brillig to Japan; rather hoping her taking me home. Do not compare yourself with other capable people, do what you can and be happy.

Andrew:  To leave the security of an ordered shore life when you are happy with it will lead to unbearable tensions aboard a cruising yacht. The compact living environment amplifies tension. If as a cruising couple planning to go you feel that persistent nagging sense of spiritual emptiness common in our society you may well discover things within yourself that bring harmony to your life by living closer to nature, as my wife and I have.

Andrew:  How long can you expect to sustain yourself aboard without any support from ashore? A week, a month, six months or more?

RikaWhat you have learned from sailing/living on a small yacht with your partner?
Sailing always shows me my weakness; life on a sailing yacht, life travelling through water by a yacht is independent, solitary, slow, tough, adventurous and dangerous. Wherever we arrived safely, it is a great achievement. I have met more than 10 people having lost their boat –a home, it can happen anytime to us. Careful preparation, loads of information and knowledge, books will help but to manage and solve problems at sea, needing mind strength to stay calm and choose a right decision in flash. Successful sailing is to choose a right vessel, this is the start.

Living and cruising on a small yacht with a partner for years makes the relationship stronger and tighter. Because we live on such a small space, we can’t avoid seeing each other, can’t keep even a small secret, we know everything and have to be honest.

10 October 2011

10 Questions for Silas Crosby

sc1 Steve Millar on Silas Crosby completed a self-interview in the Newly Salted style. You can read the original interview here or the perspective of another crew member, his niece Meredith, in her interview.
At age 56, I am in the middle of another long (metaphorical) cruise.

I started sailing at age 9 just south of Vancouver in a 9′ dinghy, then, in high I school built a 17′ catamaran and cruised the Gulf Islands of BC. My parents didn’t sail or know anything about it.

After several years of race boat crewing, I helped sail a 40′ cutter from Auckland to Vancouver over 6 months in 1974. A good taste of the South Pacific. After a hiatus of about 6 or 7 years of not much sailing, my wife and I bought a Spencer 35 named ‘Cor Leonis’ in 1986. We did an initial trip to Haida Gwaii, then took off again for a classic 3 year trip to Mexico and on to New Zealand , where our son was born.

Returning to BC via Samoa and Hawaii, in 1991, we settled in the Comox Valley, sold the Spencer 35 , had another child , and built the Brent Swain 36 steel twin-keeler, ‘Silas Crosby’ . The construction was a joint project with my brother John , and took 2 yrs and 4 months. After launching in about 1994 we cruised far and wide on the BC coast.

In 2001 the 4 of us did a north Pacific triangle cruise over a year, to Mexico, Hawaii, and home to BC again.

About a year ago in Sept 2010, we set off again to try to fulfill a long held dream., to explore the cruising grounds of the channels and islands of southern Chile and Patagonia. This time the crew was Steve (56) , my brother  (69), and niece Meredith (25). John sailed with us as far as La Paz in the Sea of Cortez before returning to Vancouver.

The idea of sailing from cold water in BC to colder water in southern Chile did not appeal to my wife Barb, so she elected to stay home and live the good life, untroubled by boat fanatics.

We are now in Valdivia, Chile, reaching the end of the austral winter. We arrived about 4 months ago via Easter Island, Galapagos, and Mexico.In the next week or two we plan to continue south eventually reaching Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino sometime around March 2012.

Tell me your favorite things about your boat.
Steel hull , twin keels , continuous tube liferails.  We pay a little bit for the twin keels when hard on the wind , but we still had a good passage from Galapagos to Easter Island with the wind forward of the beam the whole way.

The solid liferails are very sensible. I think only Amel installs them as standard on a production boat. Recommended safety item.

Tell me your least favorite thing about your boat.
Concern about rust. Not too big a problem in the first 17 years , but one does have to pay attention, despite flame-spraying during construction.

I would have loved to be able to justify the expense of a folding or feathering prop. Probably good for 1/2 knot on the wind , maybe more in light winds. The right deal has never come up in a 17 x 15″ 3- blade prop.
Of course, we need a 50′ boat to live aboard in rainy weather but only a 36′ boat to sail and pay for.

sc2 How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
Our worst weather was the last week coming in to Chile. We were really psyched up to get some bad weather, and would have been surprised had we not. So the two fronts that passed over us were uncomfortable, but OK.

Until that time I had used the storm jib and trysail only once before to slow down in strong winds coming in to New Zealand in 1987.

Can you think of a sailing tip (e.g., sail trim, sail combination) specific to offshore passages (e.g., related to swells)?  
This is interesting. We really use our whisker pole a lot, and try to sail wing and wing as much as possible because it is so comfortable, steady, and just generally easy on our boat.  When we arrived in Valdivia we have found several cruising boats that don’t even own a whisker pole and make their way downwind by jibing. These are all boats that have sailed thousands and thousands of miles to get here.

Another interesting thing we’ve discovered is how many crews do not keep a watch system. Many of the solo sailors just go to bed and get up whenever. Also some of the couples both turn in at bedtime and get up for breakfast. Some have AIS and radar watches but some don’t.

We tend to generally enjoy the night watches, sort of for private time.

Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed? 
Starting in 1974 we navigated the old, scary , approximate way. The last week coming in to Cape Scott with an RDF and DR was sketchy. GPS is excellent .We have occasionally dug out the sextant, mostly to look at it in wonder, but we don’t push the ‘off’ button on the GPS.  But really, the fundamentals have not changed at all. The people are still the same, great and friendly and helpful. The wilderness areas are still wild.
People still run up on reefs

Navigation is a lot easier, and much less stressful. That’s good.

Engines are more reliable. Sails are stronger and more durable.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
We have a 10 1/2 foot Portabote, a 7 1/2 foot inflatable , two 13′ solid plastic kayaks with sprayskirts, drysuits etc, and a 2 hp outboard. We haven’t actually used either of the dinghies since sometime in Mexico. It is a lot of gear to be hauling around. I expect we will need the inflatable in Patagonia for shoreline etc.

What do you miss about living on land?
My family.

While cruising, what do you do about health & boat insurance, medical issues, banking and mail delivery?
DAN emergency health insurance and 2 yr coverage from BC government health system. I went to medical school to prepare for cruising , probably overkill (!) but it is helpful. I was offered a pre-emptive appendectomy , but declined , and brought injectable antibiotics instead.

Banking , taken care of by Herself at Home.

Mail : what mail?

Why did you decide to cruise?
Reading Slocum , then Chichester as a 10 or 12 year old.

What did you do to make your dream a reality? 
Became Obsessive.

Finish this sentence. “Generally when I am provisioning…”
I think that food (any food) is important. Also I am associated with experts in the form of Barb and Meredith.

How do you fund your cruise?

Entering Caleta Hassler, Isla San Martin Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time? 
The romance of voyaging under sail in a small capable vessel to interesting and far-off lands has not faded for me in the least. Miles Smeeton was the first writer that conveyed that to me. It is the travel across oceans under sail. Sailing is important.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?
As a general lesson, for me, when the ‘Cruising Blues’ set in, it is time to leave town. It happens more often, but not exclusively, in the cities.

I have been back to the Baja side 3 times and around Vancouver Island 6 times, so those must be my favorites.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
After several voyages without an HF transmitter on board , I am really enjoying blabbing on the SSB and Ham nets , and on informal scheds. I find that there is still lots of time for watching the birds , the waves, and the insides of my eyelids. The 2 x 85 watt solar panels are plenty to power the radio and the little Engel fridge(also a first for us)

The crude windvane, built to an old design is invaluable.

What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free?
Fluency in Spanish. It isn’t free, though. I has cost me many, many hours to get to the early intermediate stage.

What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way?
Mast Up and Water Outside. Hot tips.

How much does cruising cost?  
$17,345.43 per year, plus or minus, depending on beer.

03 October 2011

10 Questions for TimeMachine

Editor’s Note: There are actually 14 questions answered (my fault – the readers’ gain) and TimeMachine introduces themselves: We are Cheyenne & Joshua from s/v Time Machine. We left San Francisco in 2005 and sailed down the Pacific, through the canal, and up the Caribbean back to TX, landing in 2007. I had never sailed before but Joshua grew up in and on boats and had tons of sailing experience; his father built a 40-foot version of our boat in the late 70s-80s. Time Machine was a 31' Jim Brown Searunner (trimaran), home built out of plywood, fiberglass, and a crapload of epoxy. The boat looked kinda Star Wars and sailed beautifully. We bought it with the initial intention of toodling around the bay but that immediately turned into "Let's quit our jobs and go to Mexico!" and six months later, we did, and we just kept going. We are taking time now to raise a kid but are planning the Next Trip as soon as the toddler moves beyond the highly volatile tantrum stage and becomes more predictable. We started a blog when we purchased the boat and chronicled our trip through June 2007.

Describe the compromises (if any) that you have made in your cruising in order to stay on budget
I guess this sounds weird, but we really didn't have a budget. Cruising was the cheapest way we had ever lived, and we always lived fairly conservatively. We could easily have halved our expenditures if we had cut out the booze, but we like booze. Part of this might have been because we sailed a fairly small and spare boat: no refrigeration, no windvane, no radar, no through-holes in our hull of any kind, no SSB radio, no inboard motor (though we had a 6-horse outboard), no oven, no dodger, we did our dishes in a bucket at the edge of the boat, and we did not pull up alongside a dock or marina after leaving the US until we landed in Texas 18 months later. There just wasn't a whole lot that could go wrong. We did break the rudder though off Honduras; we jury rigged it with some rope.  

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why? I had a few things packed that I didn't end up ever using--and of course which took up precious real estate. As one example, I envisioned us dining upon Caesar salads nightly (I actually brought along a small salad spinner.. I know!) but this notion was shot all to bits when we discovered romaine to be nearly nonexistent in Mexico. Furthermore, lettuce of any kind doesn't keep worth a damn onboard in the tropics. Ditto cilantro, but that's another story. About 14 months in, we had a lot of little expired tins of anchovies to attend to... Things got creative then.  

What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle? My absolute least favorite part about cruising was the possibility of having to pull anchor in the middle of the night and get out of there because of prevailing wind change, sudden lee shore squall, etc. For example, we were happily sleeping nestled amongst the gorgeous Murcielagos off Costa Rica when we had a sudden and alarming wind change at 1am. Fearing the start of the dreaded "papagayo" wind, we beat upwind until we were somewhat in the lee of the mainland, trying to get coffee started on a bouncing boat, all of us grumpy as all get-out (we had a guest with us). TimeMachine_above 

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why? Handheld backpacker's waterproof GPS (our primary). It was blue and sparkly and the size of a cell phone. It was also tough, easy to carry around with us if we felt like taking a land excursion, and it did well with batteries. Other things I could not have survived without: Really good knives and nice general galley gadgetry. It is a pleasure to cook in a confined space when you are dicing with a Shun santoku, on a beloved mesquite cutting board, with some good rum in an actual stemmed glass next to you... We went with the theory that when one is paring down to the essentials, one should select really excellent essentials. I would also have to nominate the kayak for a favorite piece of gear (we had an inflatable due to space issues). It's so lovely to be able to slink around the ocean silently, efficiently, discretely. You get to sneak up on so much wildlife this way, fit through narrow channels, up streams and rivers; the kayak was our dinghy most of the time.  

What piece of gear seems to break the most often? The citrus squeezer. Seriously; you'd think limes were made out of acid or something.  

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad? We were very conservative sailors (my doing, most surely) and did not budge unless the weather was favorable. That said, we did not always encounter following seas and fair winds. We had 15-18' seas and a gale rounding Pt. Conception, of which I had no idea until after since it was 3am, I only had two days of sailing experience under my belt when I took over watch/driving, and all I could see anyway was glowing green foam (whoa, groovy). We got 50+ knots of wind along the Tehuantapec, which was so unpleasant I had to change clothing to skin-tight things lest I get shirt-burn (shirt burn is serious business!). We had the worst sea conditions coming around Punta Mala (Point Bad, and it was) into the Bay of Panama, where we played frogger all night long with the tankers in large and confused seas. And finally, our very last day sailing crossing the Gulf of Mexico, we got hit by the nastiest squall we had ever seen. It was raining lightning bolts everywhere and Joshua saw balls of lightning racing along the wavetops. It all sucks pretty badly while it is happening but once you are through it, you remember it as just another wild story.  

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising? We met many people who had started off on their around-the-world cruise but had stopped along the way. Every single port we visited (starting with Ensenada) had at least one boat that just found what it had been looking for and needed to go no further. And there they stayed, three, ten, twenty years.. They always had good stories and LOTS of advice. We never met any of the people who had stopped cruising for other reasons because they had apparently gone home.

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how? I started out being afraid of open ocean, deep water, tipping over, sharks, of being along sailing a boat at night, of sea monsters... basically everything one could possibly be afraid of on a boat. I didn't know how to sail when we left, but it turns out that it's really pretty easy, and boats like ours don't easily tip over. Once I was forced to actually do all of the things I feared: be miles offshore in the ocean in the dark at night by myself sailing the boat, with sharks and sea monsters surely lurking beneath, it wasn't actually bad at all. I had just never done it before. Joshua always said we could call it quits when it stops being fun. We decided to take our break when I discovered I was pregnant but I wouldn't necessarily say we have quit yet.  

What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way? You can keep cheese for a long time if you put it in a jar covered with oil. You can buy the cheapest, plainest, most tasteless white cheese, pack it under veggie oil of some sort, and after three weeks to a month, it starts to get sharp. The longer you leave it, the sharper and better it tastes. I also kept ginger in vodka for a long time (ginger always went bad immediately otherwise). TimeMachine_anchored 

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer? My favorite places were the Sea of Cortez; we were there in the winter and so had to split for hurricane season (we decided to go south). I would like to spend a spring and summer there as well. Then we loved the western Islands of Panama. So much to see and so many deserted islands. We were down to half an onion and some random tubers by the time we got to Panama City.

How do you learn about the rules and regulations of your next port of call before arriving or do you just arrive and find out? We had various cruising guides (i.e., Charlie's Charts) that listed the basics, but regulations and procedures change quickly everywhere. We always brought everything we thought we could possibly need and then expected to be directed from there. Usually we ended up crossing town a few times to visit various auxiliary offices for random stamps or additional copies, etc. We ended up with amusing stories with every check-in and check-out, so I'd say it was always worth the hassle.  

What is your most common sail combination on passage? 
I think we did them all with regularity and probably averaged 2-3 different jibs per day. Maybe we were finicky with our sails but our boat was very lightweight and touchy. We did not have a roller furling but rather a hank-on system. We had four jibs: the mule, the 170, a gennaker, and a storm jib for those exciting moments that are only really exciting when you look back later, you know, knowing you lived through it and all that.   

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear? And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?
Sharks. Whales.  

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 your favorite part about cruising?

Arriving in an anchorage after a passage--more so of course if a nasty passage, but even the smoothest passages were best ended with a lovely quiet cove in which to rest. We didn't draw much so we always had the pick of the place as to where to drop our anchor. First we would sit for a moment, soaking in the calm. Then we would start wandering around the boat, picking things up, stowing the sails, tidying up things that got knocked around. Maybe jump overboard to cool/rinse off and check the anchor. Once things were relatively squared away, the rum would come out and we'd sit on the top of our cabin checking out at our new temporary home. We would talk about how to spend the remaining day, where we would go tomorrow. And plan something awesome for dinner.

29 September 2011

10 Questions for Gallivanter

Kirk, Catherine & Stuart began cruising in 1994. They have cruised in two vessels since that time: Polly Brooks, a Worldcruiser Pilothouse 37 and Gallivanter, a Hylas 47 they turned into a 49 by adding a new style transom. They started in Hawaii and sailed west on an "Orange Peel" course across four oceans. They have yet to cross their outbound track in 40,0000nm. Kirk’s former career involved manned submersibles.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

Anchor Windlass, chart plotter, autopilot - like having a strong crew (physically & mentally) who are always eager to help, don't eat much, get in the way or complain.

What is your biggest lesson learned?

Make your own choices & decisions - avoid the "Pack Mentality".

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?

Caribbean, Fiji, SE Asia, Turkey, Malta, Spain - Interesting cultures, affordable, availability of services & supplies.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?

That it's always easy and cocktails are served at sunset every evening.

In your experience, how much does cruising cost?

It costs everything you've got.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?

Go now. One can never be fully prepared.

Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited.

STARGAZING with traditional navigators on the beach of an uninhabited atoll in the Caroline Islands. Dancing with savages in Papua New Guinea.

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

Choose a strong boat purposely built & designed by a reputable team. One-off racing boats do not necessarily make for a comfortable cruising boat.

What is difficult for the parents of cruising children and what is difficult for the children themselves?

Kids add another level of enjoyment. I have found no difficulty added when our son was born and joined the crew. Lego is his one best entertainment.

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

What has been the hardest part of this lifestyle?

Having to learn how to say "Goodbye" in so many languages.

26 September 2011

10 Questions for Hotspur

hotspur2 Jim & Meri Faulkner have been cruising since 2008 with their children Tim (16) & Carolyne (11) on Hotspur, a 41' Tartan TOCK (Tartan Offshore Cruising Ketch) hailing from Olathe, Colorado, USA. You can learn more about their voyage on their website.

They say: We went from San Diego down the Baja peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez. We loved the Sea of Cortez so much that we spent 2 summers cruising there. We headed off to mainland Mexico and are preparing our trip south to Central America this fall. Our sailboat is our home and we are taking our time to get the most out of our travels and enjoying the people we meet.

We left Colorado and began our cruise on a 35' Cal Cruiser, Windfall. We upgraded to a 41' Tartan TOCK mid cruise when the kids began getting too big to share the V-berth divided down the middle.

Our trip south to Central America was postponed in 2011 due to failing equipment. We're currently waiting out hurricane season in Mazatlan, and plan to head to El Salvador in November after replacing the SSB & HAM radio and VHF radio.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?
Our biggest mistake was not upgrading our watermaker. It made only 1 gallon every 45 minutes. It simply did not provide enough fresh water for 4 people and a dog. Our children, however, disagree with us. They will tell you that having them share the V-berth was the worst mistake we made.

hotspur4Describe the compromises (if any) that you have made in your cruising in order to stay on budget.
We began with a budget divided into categories and soon realized it was unrealistic to try and stick to the confines within each category. We now follow a simple annual budget. This allows us freedom and alleviates stress. We can purchase boat parts for repairs or go to special events or travel inland when it strikes our fancy. We then pull back - anchoring out for longer periods of time if needed and spending no money whatsoever - enjoying nature - when we want to conserve.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear?
Though we aren't personally fearful of pirates, that seems to be the biggest question we get from non-cruisers anymore. Aren't we afraid of pirates? No, we are not. The dangerous areas are well publicized and represent a minuscule percent of the world.

The second question we get a lot: "Why are you in Mexico? Aren't you afraid you're going to die?"  No. We've cruised all over Mexico and it will be hard to leave this country. The people and marine life have been exceptional. Our encounters have been rich and the loveliness of the culture and terrain is forever etched in our minds and in our hearts. Cruising Mexico is wonderful.

My personal fears were very different - more general and seem silly to me now. An online article I wrote called FEAR ON THE WAY describes my feelings at the beginning of our cruise.

hotspur1 And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?
A floating dinghy with an outboard motor bobbing up and down in the water when the crew is asleep is an easy opportunity. Dinghy and outboard theft is common everywhere in the world and most times it happens when cruisers leave their dinks in the drink at night. Raise your dinghy out of the water each night and lock them up - the same as you would probably lock your car every night on a dark street.

hotspur6 What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

**These answers are from a family poll**

Solar panels: We watch movies at night, use the computer, run our watermaker, sewing machine, shop vac - and, enjoy cold beverages from the fridge on hot days.

Watermaker: Fresh water showers make such a difference in crew morale. We can do laundry aboard if needed, dishes, wash the decks - and no running back and forth to land with jerryjugs. Our watermaker aboard Hotspur makes 6 gallons an hour and is sufficient for our crew.

Engel Freezer: Can you say 'ice'? That may not mean much now, but being at anchor in the tropics with 95% humidity - ice is so nice! Our Engel uses only 3 amps when running. We make ourselves smoothies, enjoy ice cream and frozen yogurt and have a place to put that 40 lb. fish we landed that we can't eat in one day.

SSB/HAM/Pactor modem: Our connection to the outside world is important to us. Ham and SSB Nets, emails and weather faxes are wonderful when you are at anchor and don't have internet capabilities.

Autopilot: Though we have to hand steer at times if weather conditions are rough, the auto pilot does the work 95% of the time. We carry spare parts for our autopilot and our passages are more relaxing because of it.

hotspur5 In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?
Because so many cruisers we've encountered are retired, many of them have to abandon cruising due to health problems or aging parents.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?

"Cruising is easy".

I find myself saying mind over matter frequently. Boat equipment breaks in the harsh conditions or from constant use, weather can produce sleepless nights, spending 24/7 with your loved one(s) can make you cross eyed, and doing laundry in a bucket with a toilet plunger sounds quaint - but isn't. It's hard work and sometimes it's frustrating.

For example, I was feeling very pleased with myself for finishing up a new outdoor shade cover my husband designed and I constructed. The day I scratched it off the list felt so rewarding - until on the very same day we added to the list: repair outboard handle, repair leaky porthole, and termite alert. Scratch one item off the list - add three more.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?
Plans are good, but let your plans be loosely woven. Go with the flow - be as flexible as possible. I think that is a good recipe for this kind of lifestyle - because it is ever changing and moving, just like the tide.

hotspur3What is your most common sail combination on passage?
Our 16 year old son has been doing watches since he was 13. We have 2 hours on and 4 hours off at night between three people. Super nice! During the daytime hours, we give our 11 year old daughter an hour watch every so often, supervised. She still daydreams and gets distracted easily, playing mean homeschool teacher with a bag of clothespin "students".

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

Outboard motor: In fact, we've spent 4 days looking for a part in Mazatlan as I write this. The part is obsolete - no longer made. We'll either luck out and discover an old engine that can be parted out or we'll find a machinist to build us one... I hope.

Head: We always have spare head rebuild kits aboard. Our head seems to need something every few months - clogged hose, joker valve, new hose clamp, stuck Y valve... endless! We use vinegar regularly to clean and de-calcify. And, we learned early on that the captain gets cranky when working on the head. Now, the crew leaves the boat when the head needs servicing.

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 a clever tip that you have learned while cruising to help solve a problem?

An Australian sailor told us you can use honey in a pinch if you have a slipping belt on the engine. We tried it and it works better than belt dressing!

19 September 2011

10 Questions for Pelican

pelican2Jonas first started cruising when he was 24, on a 32 ft Pearson Vanguard, "Tabasco". He completed a two year coastal cruise from California down to Costa Rica and back in 1995-1997.  In 2006, he found Pelican, a Pearson Alberg 35, in Seattle.

He says: I left on what turned out to be a nearly five year single handed circumnavigation.  The route was Mexcio, South Pacific, refit in New Zealand, Melanesia, north of Australia, up to the Andaman side of SE Asia, Sri Lanka, East Africa, Cape Agulhaus, Brazil, north coast of South America, Caribbean, Panama Canal and back to Mexico.  In my homeport of San Francisco I am an active member at the Cal Sailing club in Berkeley where I regularly volunteer teach sailing. 

You can learn more about his circumnavigation on his website.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds? Yes, in some areas they can still have value.  Cell phone digital cameras are popping up everywhere but a printer with photo quality paper to actually print the pics out (especially family portrait photos as gifts) is great to have.    22 caliber bullets in the Marquesas and you will be treated like a king.  Plain old aluminum oxide sandpaper in Tikopia got me praise from the chiefs!  Cheap dive masks in any underdeveloped island community.

What are your impressions of the cruising community? Too much money in the cruising scene...  The go now and go modest philosophy isn't popular at all.  There is an informal club out there called "under 40".  It isn't just about being out cruising while under forty years of age but also having less than forty thousand US invested in the boat.  This is rarer than being younger.  When you came across another member, the "club" is always a topic of conversation as it is pretty rare to meet young cruisers on a budget. The community makes one feel that cruising is not a lifestyle to get
away from the "real world" as much as it is a reward for having done well in it...

pelican3What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way? When you get to an anchorage off a village and you need to figure out where to put your dinghy, instead of locking it up or paying money for someone to watch it, loan it to a local that wants to go fishing. Initiating that sort of level of trust and sharing will open a lot of doors and in a small village everyone knows everyone else.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why? Storm trysail and separate track if single handling on a small boat. The reality I found is that by the time you want to set it up, the motion of the boat is so much that it is unsafe to set.  A deeper third reef in the main is a better solution.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad? The saying that it is much safer offshore than close to land in a blow is really true.  I was in an anchorage in the San Blas when a strong squall ripped through in the middle of night.  It was literally airborne dinghies, a lot of screaming on the VHF, and so much rain you couldn't see who was dragging and who wasn't.  Luckily most squalls don't last long so no boats were lost.  Some boats scrapped against the reef and there were destroyed windlasses.  The same squall offshore would have been nothing serious.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising? I made the mistake of not taking enough chances. During my first season through the South Pacific, the lagoon passes with descriptions like  "outbound currents up to 9 knots", or "not visited by author" or
"even the locals respect it" were skipped.  I chose destinations that had reliable charts, that had facilities and were not too tricky to get in or out of.  I should have done a bit more of the opposite... In the trades, you only get one downhill pass so you need to make it count.  Get over the fear of losing the boat and you will see places few do.

How do you learn about the rules and regulations of your next port of call before arriving or do you just arrive and find out? I remember being in Chagos when the Seychelles were surrounded by Somali motherships.  About half the cruising boats in Chagos that were originally west bound decided to not go any farther and instead went
back to Asia.  A handful of boats that were bound for Madagascar, including myself, took a huge detour to go south of the Salha de Maya Bank and ended up in Mauritius or Reunion.  From there we made landfall at Saint Marie on the windward side of Madagascar.  The entire exchange of information from rules and regulations of checking in to the latest on locations of the recent pirate attacks was handled by SSB and nets that were set up by boats in the area.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise? Most people who dream of cruising have usually only daysailed in pleasant conditions and need to have a major reality check before taking the plunge.  At my homeport of San Francisco it is consistently
25 knots and 7 to 8 foot seas right outside the Golden Gate Bridge.  I recommend all local wanna be cruisers to leave the protection of the bay, find a spot outside the shipping lanes and heave to for 48 hours
before coming back in the bay.  If this sounds like a crazy and senseless masochistic sort of torture session then you aren't ready for cruising.

pelican1 Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer? Being single, full of youth and out cruising on your own boat was a place that I could have stayed a little longer!

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

Have you ever wanted to quit cruising while still in the midst of doing it? 

Yes, a couple of times.   It got miserable enough that I ended up making a vow to never set foot on a boat or go to sea ever again.  The worst loneliness, extreme physical discomfort, and plain old gut wrenching fear can get to you. These are not true tragedies though and can be put into perspective.

I think those low moments when it doesn't seem like it is worth it happen to anyone who has been out long enough. The feeling always passed...

12 September 2011

10 Questions for Alianna

alianna2 Sim and Rosie Hoggarth began cruising in June 2004 aboard Alianna, a Corbin 39 hailing from Falmouth, United Kingdom. They bought Alianna in Antigua and sailed the loop, down the Caribbean chain, across to South America, up Central America and North American as far as Washington DC and back down the Bahamas to the East Caribbean. You can learn more about their journey on their website.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
I had very limited sailing experience but my husband had been sailing for years.  I had complete faith in him and everything we learnt we learnt together.  Ignorance is bliss they say and we have enjoyed the whole learning experience.  I don't think there is anything we wished someone had told us before we got here, otherwise we might never have got here.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
We are a pretty basic sailing boat - we have all the necessary safety and navigational equipment but we don't have radar and I have always felt that it would help when we are on passage to check which way storm heads are moving.  We have managed 7 years without a water maker and other items that some cruisers feel essential - its all a matter of personal comfort.  Sim wishes that we had built a bigger frame to house more solar panels, we physically can't carry any more, while there is always a need for more power.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?
We were very very cautious the first year of cruising, getting to know the boat and living together in a small space.  I don't think that we made any major mistakes, except in perhaps spending money on items thinking we were going to sail around the world that we now don't need - maybe we shouldn't have been so hasty in that respect.

What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free and why?
That's a tough one, I would be torn between a radar for reasons explained above, new sails as ours are very old and baggy or a freezer for ice at cocktail hour - can I have them all?  Sim says an extra 10ft but I don't think it matters how big your boat is you will always need more space for something. If an extra 10ft is unrealistic he would like furling gear for the inner staysail as at the moment it sits on deck and hardly ever gets used.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear?
We both agree that the fear the unknown whether it be weather related, country related or boat related most of the time its never as bad as it seems and the cruising community is a tight knit of people who are always willing to help.

And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?
Obviously that same can be said if you don't have any concerns about the above either. Have some respect for everything from the sea, to your boat and the countries you are visiting. Also you need to be able to do a lot of your own maintenance, everyone has to call in some help sometime but unless you have bottomless pockets the ability to do the majority of your own maintenance makes the lifestyle much more affordable to people who are on a budget.

alianna In your experience, how much does cruising cost?
Cruising can cost as little or as much as you want it to.  We consider ourselves to be at the lower end of the scale - we try to live on a US$1000 a month with additional expenses of about $5000 per annum accounting for overspend or haulouts or insurance etc.  We know people that live on less and many that live on more.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
I had very little experience sailing on a yachts although I had clocked up a few sea miles of off shore sailing on Tall Ships as deck hand and watch leader, I joined a dinghy club before we left and took my day skipper course.  Sim has been sailing his whole life, racing Hobie cats, working on the Tallships as a marine engineer and doing deliveries.  He had his own 20ft sailboat in Cornwall and an RYA Off Shore yachtmaster certificate.

What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way?
This is not a tip or trick, its just sensible.  Get the best and biggest anchor you can afford. Buy good quality.  You will have many peaceful nights if you have confidence in your ground tackle.

Where was your favourite place to visit and why?
I don't think I could choose a favourite place and why - The reason we love cruising is that each place tickles a different spot, that's the beauty of being able to move your whole home from one place to another.  But in general terms the East Caribbean offers the easiest sailing with short hops between islands and beautiful comfortable anchorages for most of the time. I do love the Western Caribbean for its different cultures and life styles.

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 decide when you are ready to go cruising? 

Sim felt that at the time he was young enough to go away cruising for 5 years and still be able to get work when he returned. Rather then wait until has was at retirement age.  I was at a time when I was ready for a change of lifestyle.  Once we made the decision to go sailing we sold up and shipped out within 6 months. Best decision we ever made.

09 September 2011

All good things must come to an end

This is a heads up to let the IWAC readership know that I will be putting the project on intermission.

What does that mean? As I post this, there is another month worth of interviews already scheduled. Interviews will continue to roll out, as per usual, for at least the next 4 weeks. I have a number of interview requests out and as those interviews come in I will continue publishing them on the site. However, I will not be actively recruiting new interviews and after the next month, I will not be posting interviews on every single Monday.

Why?! First, I've accomplished my own personal goals. There are now a large body of interviews, chock full of opinions and experiences, publicly available for free. Second, we seem to have reached a point in the information gathering process where most interviews contain information that has already been mentioned. Third, and not least, our cruising plans are taking us out of easy wifi connectivity and so the project will become even more work for me.

Why do you say intermission? I reserve the right to come back to this project, at a later point, and expand on it.

Why didn't you hand off the project to someone else to continue? Mostly because I would love to see how a different person would approach the task. I encourage someone else to start their own version. In fact, I'll pimp any cruising, interview based projects out here once they are up and running as I have done for other interview projects in the past.

Thank YOU. It's been a good run and I very much appreciate the time the interviewees have given to the task and the support of the readership. I want to thank everyone who put a badge on their own page, linked to the project, suggested interviewees or questions and who provided some liquid motivation by direct donation or by visiting the ads. I hope that people will keep the badges up on their websites and continue to direct cruisers-in-prep or armchair cruisers to this project as a cruising resource. The interviews will still be new to those who have never seen the site.

This is a good death. There is no shame in this, a project's death, a project that has done fine works.- (mis)quote from the movie Serenity

05 September 2011

10 Questions for Nuage

Nuage Nuage is a Philbrooks Fast Passage 39 cutter rigged hailing from Vancouver, Canada. Nuage left Vancouver in 2005 sailing offshore Vancouver to San Francisco and then coastal cruising to San Diego, through Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, Central America and Panama, to Ecuador in South America.

Her owners say: We are a retired couple who began sailing in 1990. We joined the Bluewater Cruising Association in Vancouver to meet other wannabe offshore sailors and educate ourselves about the lifestyle and skills needed.  We started our trip in 2005 and have returned to Vancouver each year for the summer.

What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free and why? We are equipped to suit our needs so it would have to be something frivolous like a generator to satisy the Captain's ongoing quest for power, but space is the issue here rather than cost.  Or perhaps a satellite phone but we don't know who we'd call (!).

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear? And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should? Cruisers, both dreamers and doers, worry about weather and breakdowns.  Preparation is more useful than fear.  We try to evaluate weather information available onshore before making a passage, and at sea we monitor daily weather updates via GRIB files downloaded through SSB.  We carry a plethora of spare parts and David is capable of fixing almost anything on the boat.  Not all offshore cruisers have learned to maintain their boats and this should be a BIG worry.  Even if you have access to and can afford qualified tradesmen in port, you still have to be self reliant at sea.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why? Our finest cruising grounds between Vancouver and South America were the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.  White sand beaches, beautiful blue, warm water, snorkelling, spear fishing, day sailing and good weather forecasts.  For onshore exploration, backpacking in South America is fascinating with each country different from the next, and very cheap living and travel.  We camped in Tierra del Fuego, on the Beagle Channel at the tip of South America and luckily found a last minute cheap(er) exploration cruise from there to Antarctica.  We like taking our time and exploring the countries we visit.

nuage3 What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way? We learned Spanish.  It's a work in progress but, apart from being an interest and a lot of fun, it allows us to travel with confidence and enjoy the local people so much more.  It's good for bargaining too!

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time? We didn't have an opinion before we left but we are definitely cruiser/travellers and, although passages can be a zen experience, we are always pleased to be at anchor in a new destination with exploration ahead of us.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike? We like being part of a community and having an entree to meeting new people with the minimum of formality.  The sociability of cruisers in Mexico is outstanding;  however, as you venture out into more challenging sailing areas among a diversity of nationalities, there is not as much boater interaction.  Panama City is an example, being the crossroads of the world where boats are in preparation mode for either a transit or a crossing.  Dislike - cruising is a lot of physical work - more than is generally realized and in hot countries this can be wearing.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising? Attitude - stay calm, be outgoing, respect and appreciate your crew, be open minded, be generous, have fun.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?
At some point cruisers can get tired of the level of work involved with sailing a boat offshore and want to move on with land-based interests.  Or people can be attracted to the travel but not enjoy the passages.  Many young people can't afford more than a targeted one or two year cruise.  We know of only one boat which returned home after one year due to the crew's nervousness on the water.  You have to remember, it's OK to give it up - at least you tried.

Nuage 2 In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult? For my husband it was being away from family.  For me it was ensuring that business back home was being taken care of.  Neither are boat related - the first year was not a challenge to our enthusiasm for cruising.

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

What skills are necessary prior to casting off?

We crewed offshore prior to our trip and we preceded this with many years of coastal sailing and navigation in British Columbia in a variety of conditions and locations.  My husband installed most of the equipment on the boat, becoming completely familiar with her in the process.  What he didn't know, he learned, which has proved invaluable to us offshore.  We also rely heavily on HAM/SSB radio and contact with other operators while on passages so getting the HAM licence is wise.

29 August 2011

10 Questions for Blue Sky

bluesky Jim, Emma, Phoebe (13) & Drake (11) began cruising at the end of 2005 and stopped in mid 2011. They cruised a Westward Trade Wind Route aboard Blue Sky a DownEast Ketch 45 hailing from Redondo Beach, California, USA. Readers can learn more about them on their website.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Emma: You must stock up on provisions when inexpensive and or available. If you see it buy it.
Phoebe: Knowing what will not be available in the next cruising area.
Drake: Happy that it was all a surprise.
Jim: How much work was involved with Boat/Home schooling.

What is something that you looked forward to about cruising when you were dreaming, that is as good or even better than imagined?
Phoebe: The various shades of blue the ocean can be.
Drake: Seeing animals in their natural habitats.
Emma: The beauty of the people & their countries.
Jim: The pure joy of being on the boat under full sail when all conditions combined to creat the optimum sailing experience. The best was 48 hours in the coral sea covering 348 nm.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
Emma: Not often, Because we always checked the weather.
Phoebe: Did not notice as I was usually down below if conditions were not perfect.
Drake: Less than 2% of total 5.5 year voyage. Not bad.
Jim: Downwind passage 95+ % so even squally, rainy 25+ knots of wind was comfortable. Upwind, current & swell on the outside of Baja, California was the most unpleasant.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
Emma: Watermaker.
Phoebe: Portable DVD players.
Drake: Headphones.
Jim: Hoseclamps.

What do you think is a common cruising myth.
Emma: Less work than Home/Profession.
Phoebe: Mermaids.
Drake: Sharks are scary.
Jim: It's always sunny & warm.

Across a year, what do you spend the most money on while cruising?
Emma: Provisions.
Phoebe: Ice Cream.
Drake: Toys.
Jim: Preventative or replacement parts for the boat.

How did you recommend securing your vessel while going ashore? And your dinghy?
Phoebe: Closing hatches & windows for rain.
Drake: Removing the engine kill key from the dingy.
Jim: Very rare to lock the vessel, make certain that dingy is above the high tide line ashore and hoisted in the davits EVERY night.
Emma: Only once did we need to keep a watch on the vessel while crew went ashore to perform check in/out procedures. Same watch person also dropped crew ashore via the dingy and returned the tender back to the vessel.

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?
Phoebe: Simplified our lives but wished for better shower facility. Ours was on deck.
Emma: To see the world through the children's eyes. Amazed at the lack of solitary free time. We were called the floating chandlery, even so we would have purchased more spares at home (because of availability and low cost) to prepare, prevent or protect components from breaking down.
Drake: Our home moved. All the chores like knocking back the slimy anchor chain.
Jim: Breakfast, Lunch & dinner as a family every day. During the re-fit I was talked into re-using equipment rather than purchasing new. These were the items that most often failed.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was overrated (not as good as you had heard)?
Emma: Carribean.
Drake: The silty brown water in Singapore/Malaysia.
Jim: The Great Barrier Reef - disappointing after the South Pacific.
Phoebe: Aruba. Expensive tourist trap, overrun, large military presence because of Venezuela & South American drug cartels.

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

What about insurance? Including: vessel, health & emergency evacuation. 

We had vessel insurance the whole way around the world. Now with hind sight we would have self insured ourselves once we left Mexico and would not have reinstated it until we returned to Mexico and the US (the only two countries that asked for it.) Health insurance is unnecessary as health care and dentistry around the world is available and affordable. However, we were fortunate and did not have a major incident. For emergency evacuation, we utilized DAN. All cruisers we met we told them about this service and we think for the cost/benefit this is an absolute must have!