31 January 2011

10 Questions for BeBe

bebe1 Bill & Judy Rouse named Bebe, their 2003 Amel Super Maramu (16m) hailing from St Thomas, because it was their granddaughter’s nickname. They left Texas, USA on May 1, 2006 and are still cruising. Over the years they have traveled the Caribbean (2 circles) from USVI to Trinidad, across Venezuela to Bonaire & Curacao, Cartagena & Panama; Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and Kingdom of Tonga from Vava’U through Hai’pai to Tongatapu; south to New Zealand; north to Vanuatu & New Caledonia, Australia; Indonesia; Singapore; Malaysia (37 countries total including SE Asia land travel). You can learn more about them on their blog.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
No. Our boat was fully equipped for round-the-world cruising when she left the factory. This is the standard quality of Amel. The only thing we added was an AIS receiver in January 2008, which was new technology since our boat was built in January 2003. The AIS receiver is not a necessity, but it certainly is nice to know exactly where that big ship on the horizon is going to be in 10 minutes so you can adjust your course accordingly.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
The standard recommendations are still the best advice.

1) Get your captains license or sailing school training or some kind of certification. Some places, like New Jersey and Greece, now require proof of competency or special licensing in order to operate a vessel in their waters. Having your captain’s license also usually provides a discount on insurance.

2) Attend training class for the specific engine in your boat. Even people thoroughly acquainted with diesel engines can benefit from a class geared specifically for their model engine.

3) Obtain offshore medical training, even if just a weekend class. The emphasis in this type training is quite different than standard EMT training. The offshore class teaches you what to do in case of an emergency when no help will be arriving anytime soon. The standard EMT training assumes you will arrive in a hospital emergency room within 20 minutes. The scenarios are entirely different.

4) Get going ASAP. Once you have the first 3 items mentioned and are sure your boat is seaworthy, start cruising. Don’t spend time trying to make your boat perfect; just go. Then don’t make any changes on your boat until you have been cruising for at least a full year. It takes that long to know what is important to you.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds?
Only once. Before heading out across the South Pacific we purchased numerous items with intentions of trading in the remote islands. We carried ladies sandals, lipsticks, nail polish, sewing items, fish hooks, men’s shirts and similar items. The opportunity to attempt trading never happened. In the Hai’pai Group of the Kingdom of Tonga we gave the men’s shirts to a man whose home had burned and he had lost everything. We ended up giving the rest of these items to people in Indonesia who approached our boat requesting “gifts.” No one wanted to trade; they just wanted gifts.

bebe2 The only opportunity we encountered for trading in the South Pacific was at a small atoll in the Tuamotus of French Polynesia. A small boat containing 3 men approached our boat at anchor. They spoke only French and we spoke only English, but they managed to convey that they wished to trade black pearls for rum. (After all. the French word rhum sounds just like the English word rum.) We did not have rum to trade, but we did have cases of beer. We ended up trading 3 cases of beer for 21 black pearls. We had purchased the beer in Panama for only $10.50 per case, so this was a good deal for us; and the men were delighted to receive the beer. All forms of alcohol are extremely expensive in French Polynesia. At the local price equivalent of $60 USD per 6-pack for beer, in their opinions they had received $480 USD for the 21 black pearls. Yet our cost was only $31.50.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?
A common cruising myth is that this lifestyle is inexpensive. There continues to be a myth that people can cruise for as little as $500 per month. This is totally unrealistic unless you are eating nothing except beans and rice and letting your boat fall into ruin by failure to do routine maintenance. Our costs have been much, much higher. A complete breakdown of our cruising costs for the first 4 years can be found on our blog.

Another common myth is that you can “self insure” the boat rather than carry proper insurance. That might have been true in the old days, but that is very unwise today because all countries are more environmentally conscious. If your boat is involved in any type accident, you will be responsible for any environmental damage. That cost could quickly exceed the cost of insuring a boat for years. One boat we know was lost when they hit a reef at a small Pacific island. Not only had they lost everything, they were not allowed to leave that island until they paid $10,000 for damage to the reef, plus the cost of  removing the boat.

What is the key to making the cruising life enjoyable?
bebe3 Having a boat that is designed and equipped for round-the-world cruising. We are spoiled with a watermaker that produces 180 liters per hour, a washing machine and 2 large lockers than can be set as either freezers or refrigerators. These items make all the difference in creature comforts when cruising. We cannot imagine cruising without these conveniences. Also equally important is enjoying the full-time company of your partner and learning to kick back and enjoy quiet times alone.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
Nothing. Hope this statement doesn’t jinx us, but none of the normally problem-prone equipment such as generator or watermaker has caused us any problems. We almost feel guilty as our cruising friends work on their boats and we continue to have almost no problems. Amel makes a quality boat that comes direct from the factory fully equipped for crossing oceans in comfort. We have had only 3 pieces of equipment fail during our 4 ½ years of cruising. Our Furuno GPS antennae failed once; we had numerous GPS back-ups so it wasn’t that big of a problem. Our NMEA multiplexor failed once when crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria; replacement also solved that problem. The linear drive on our autopilot failed during one long passage; but Amel had installed 2 drives with an A/B switch, so we simply switched it to the chain drive and continued on. We almost felt guilty when this problem was so easily solved for us. Three other boats we know also had their autopilots fail during this passage north from New Zealand, and they had to hand-steer for days. We solved the problem by simply flipping a switch.

What do you enjoy about cruising that you didn't expect to enjoy?
Meeting people who have become lifelong friends. Having the time to read as much as we like. And occasionally playing games with other cruisers. Neither of us is a game person. But we have learned to enjoy playing Mexican Train Dominos and Rummy Cube; not because of the games themselves, but because of the camaraderie spending a few hours with friends.

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
We are fine in terms of spares. We had asked someone who was 2/3rds through his circumnavigation in a sister ship for his list of spares. He gave me his complete list reflecting deletions and additions. We followed that list and have been happy with the results.

What was the most affordable area you have cruised and the most expensive? What was affordable or expensive about each area?
bebe4 The most affordable areas were the San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala) of Panama and the Kingdom of Tonga. The San Blas were inexpensive because there was nothing to spend money on except moderate anchoring fees and molas for souvenirs or gifts. Just beautiful anchorages to enjoy. In Tonga there was very little to purchase so we spent very little. The most expensive place we have cruised was French Polynesia. Literally everything was expensive. The only things we found affordable in all of French Polynesia were the baguettes, which are price controlled. We grew so tired of the high prices of everything in French Polynesia that we left Bora Bora 2 weeks before our 90-day visas expired. Many cruisers want extended visas or multiple visits to French Polynesia. This beautiful expensive place was not a highlight for us. The second most expensive place was Australia. If we had it to do over again, we would skip Australia altogether.

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

When you first set out cruising, did you have a cruising plan? If so, has it changed?
We had no specific cruising plan when we started. Bill would have been quite happy to spend years in the Caribbean, but by the second year in the Caribbean Judy wanted to seek out new horizons. So we headed farther westward in spring 2008 and should complete our circumnavigation in 2012 or 2013. Then we plan to sail the Caribbean for several more years or until we no longer enjoy cruising – and that might take many more years!

28 January 2011

Six Salties

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Newly Salted site yet, the first 6 self-interviews are live:
Enjoy - and do me a favor and go to a new cruiser's blog and leave a comment suggesting that they get salty.

24 January 2011

10 Questions for Sage

sage2 Connie McCann and Tony Gibb are currently cruising aboard Sage, a Wauquiez 38 Mk1 hailing from Victoria BC, Canada. They began cruising in 1983 onboard their first boat Hejira, a Vancouver 27, on which they sailed through the Pacific (Mexico, French Polynesia, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Mexico, Solomons, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Philippines, Japan and US). They began cruising again in 2010 aboard Sage. You can keep track of their current voyage via their blog. Editor's note: Because of an error on my part, there are more than 10 questions. Bonus for the readers!

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
Tony: One of the most important criteria is seaworthiness.  The boat has to be well constructed, well rigged and perform well under sail.  The additional add ons such as electronic gear is not so important nor critical for safe offshore passage making.  It does make it easier but it's better to go sailing now then wait till you have the money to buy all the fancy electronic gear.
Connie:  Performance. Shoal draft. Solid construction. Our Vancouver 27 certainly had 2 of those but lacked the performance factor.

What are your impressions of the cruising community?
Tony: For us the cruising community in every port has been incredibly supportive. Everyone pitches in when help is needed and when emergencies require everyone to work together.  The downside is that it's hard to say goodbye to people one has spent time with. It seems to be always saying goodbye although the longer one is out cruising the more frequent those chances at reunification are in some small out of the way place where one can once again spend time getting to know and enjoy each other.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
Connie:  I truly am thrilled and always newly amazed at finding an island with a sextant and may miss that thrill as we have joined the electronic navigation world. Landfalls are very special, searching with your eyes for land then seeing it at a great distance as in the case of Attu in the Aleutians or searching and searching and not finding it until you are almost on top of it as in the Tuamotos is not something that can be easily described to land based folks.

I don’t like not being able to talk about politics with most folks and relish the days when I can. I have spent a large percentage of my life working in the political realm and am always keen to know what is happening politically in both my home country and in the country I am anchored in.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?
Tony: Usually use 3 on 3 off although now with a larger boat we do expect to have more people onboard and have been using 2 on 4 off for Sage when crewed by 3 people.  This has worked very well providing consistent watches within the 24 hour period.

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
Tony: Sailing between the San Bernadino Straits and Okinawa we were followed by a Taiwanese (?) fishboat with no-one on deck and no communication.  This fishing boat followed us for about 3 hours and was never more than 50 metres from our starboard aft quarter. All we could do was keep sailing and hope that they were not interested in such small pickings from a very basic boat.

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?
Tony: Going when we were young and poor.  This provided us an opportunity of working and living in other countries to try and pay the bills and keep the cruising life alive.  We never understood when meeting people 55+ when they said they wish they had done it when they were younger.  Now that we're out sailing again we can understand why.  The compromise in the above was the fact that we had to choose a smaller boat than we would have liked but it was affordable.  I can't think of anything at this time in terms of choosing otherwise.

Over the years, how much time do you think you spend at anchor, at marinas, sailing and motoring?
Tony: Anchor (80%), at marinas (5%), sailing (10%) and motoring (5%)

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
Tony: By providing the tools for the reluctant partner to be able to manage the boat on his/her own resources.  Every person on the boat should be knowledgeable and have the ability to handle every aspect on the boat on their own.  This sense of empowerment may provide the reluctant partner not only the ability to manage the boat but also the confidence that should something happen to the other person that they're not helpless.  It doesn't mean that the person has the interest in all the aspects of running the boat but they will learn where their strengths are, focus on their strengths to complement the team while also understanding where their weaknesses are and not ignoring them but at least having a basic understand and knowledge about how to manage them when necessary.

What has been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or expensive about each area?
Tony: Most affordable - Philippines - food is plentiful and cheap.  Facilities and land travelling are reasonable. 

Most expensive - the U.S. - food and marinas are expensive.  The temptation to tie up to a dock is enticing and difficult to resist as the marinas are usually located in prime locations for services and land touring. 

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
Connie:  When we moved the coast within 3 months we bought a small inexpensive sailboat but we sailed it extensively here in the Pacific North West, mostly during the winter season. We sailed obsessively – on the boat from Friday night at 5 pm until very late Sunday. Took weeks in the winter season to sail longer distances. We propped up Eric Hiscock’s Cruising under Sail and practiced everything, from sailing out the anchor to sitting in the Juan de Fuca straights hove to. We made lists (and after 3 boats still making lists) especially the list for the boat that would take us across oceans.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
Connie:  Always saying goodbye. Tony and I are both outgoing sorts of people and we make new friends easily. It became difficult to say goodbye. Having to work. From 1983-1990 during our Pacific circumnavigation we had to work – we would work for one year and sail a year. By the end, in Japan 1990 it became a touch labourious. This was one of the primary reasons that we returned – to have an income and not have to work. We enjoyed our work sojourns but it was the sailing that we really wanted to do.

sage1 What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Connie:  This will be different for Tony but for me it is about seasickness – I wish someone had told me about Sturgeron. I finally found out about it in Australia and my sailing life became a touch less violent in the first three days! I know that people told us of the need for sun protection but perhaps because we are from the North and the sun does not have quite the same strength – we just didn’t take sun protection seriously enough. Our new boat is much better at sun protection while we are sailing.

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
Connie:  Never too many spares. Engine parts are problematic – do you carry an extra transmission? We don’t but did have that discussion when a spare one became available.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
Connie:  I may have been attracted to the travel aspect prior to offshore but I came to enjoy the sailing just for the heck of it. I did not come to sailing naturally – I had to work at it. However I love the aspect that I am traveling with my home – that is a very special relationship and so very different from land traveling.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?
Connie:  Everywhere I have sailed to was underrated. Too often travelers tell you ‘oh you should have been here xxx years ago – it was better’. I simply don’t believe that – yes, it is different than it was xx years ago but it is just fine. I do not long for the days when it ‘looked’ different. I am just thankful that I am there.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
Connie:  My body. Now that it is in its 5th decade it may break even more often! Our Vancouver 27 had very little breakage but we also sailed very simply on that voyage. Sails wore, mostly from the UV. And, we never pushed the limits on our sails except maybe sailing into Wellington NZ….

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

Tony: How much does it cost to cruise? 

I know this all depends on one's pocketbook but it would be interesting to see what people's responses are.
Having just left our our new (old) boat we're not sure what it's going to cost this time.  In the 1980's we could get by quite comfortably on $12,000 U.S. dollars/year.  This would pay for everything such as land travel, repairs and replacement to required equipment, food, communications etc etc. However, with a larger boat, 20 years added on we're not quite sure what to expect but hope we can do it on $24,000/year.

17 January 2011

10 Questions For Coconut

coconut Lesley, Trond, Camilla and Colin Ã…sdam are a family who cruised from 2005 – 2008 aboard Coconut, a 1985 Contest 41S hailing from Oslo, Norway. They cruised Northern and Southern Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Trond says: I have sailed since I was a little boy. Lesley however had her first sailing trip in 88 when we met. That trip was from Knysna in South Africa to Turkey. For 7 years prior to the 2005 – 2008 trip, we sailed professionally. I was the captain and Lesley the cook. Our cruising grounds followed the yearly cycle of the Med in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. A couple of times we sailed north to Scandinavia as well for the summer making sure to be in the Med before the cold weather. 

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
Not really. We wanted to keep it simple and feel that is good advice. Don’t add too much complexity, remember you'll have to fix it when it breaks and maintain it so it doesn’t.

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?
Yes, many places. We would like to mention the San Blas Islands which are very very lovely. The people are fascinating and welcoming. Then of course you have Polynesia which has so much to offer, and the Cook Islands and Vanuatu and.... The world is full of lovely places and lovely people. The most beautiful place on earth however is Moorea!

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat
Coconut is very safe and comfortable and reliable. She never let us down! Her centre cockpit with a fixed dodger is great. You are always safe and dry in her cockpit. Also the cockpit benches are long enough to sleep on. She has three cabins and two heads, one on each side of the boat. That is very handy.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
Nothing really. We have done the trip before a few times and sort of knew what was in store for us. Anyone with romantic ideas of quiet solitude will have to think twice however. There is a lot of people around in the Caribbean! Also many seem surprised that it is so windy and that the swell is so large. Sailing between the islands is pretty much offshore cruising. The Med is very crowded in places as well. By carefully planning you trip you can avoid the masses however, if that's what you want. You see, most yachts follow the same time schedule.

Can you think of a sailing tip (e.g., sail trim, sail combination) specific to offshore passages (e.g., related to swells)?
Sail conservatively, check chafe and think safety. Never sail with a boat with a cockpit that's open in the stern as seem to be the fashion.  Choose your boat carefully. Remember it is a very different thing sailing for days and weeks on end offshore than sailing for a couple of hours every day. Choose a boat with a smaller mainsail. Most of your sailing will be downwind and a large main with a large boom is dangerous. Sail wing on wing at night. Use two headsails and drop the main. One can be set without a forestay. The spinnaker boom can pole out the one to windward. The main boom can pole out the other one to leeward. You attach a block to the end of the boom and run the sheet through it. Then strap the boom down with a preventer. This way you avoid having a dangerous main that might take your head off and you move the centre of effort forward. Your boat will then most likely keep her course nicely without the need for much action from the autopilot. Try it. We love this rig. Remember to always lock things down with ample preventers.

While cruising, what do you do about health & boat insurance, medical issues, banking and mail delivery?
We had insurance and my family took care of any business.

Why did you decide to cruise?
To show our kids the world and experience it all together as a family.

Sailing has been a big part of our life. My wife and I met in the Azores when she was sailing to Turkey from South Africa and I was on my way home to Norway from the Caribbean. Since then we have crossed the oceans together. It was important for us to share this lifestyle with our kids. We hoped to teach them that the world is a large and wonderful place. That the people that live in it are friendly loving people and not what you hear about in the media. The special camaraderie you experience being part of the sailing community is also something that we wanted our kids to experience. This are friendships that disregard age, nationality or sociocultural background. It was as natural for them to approach someone that was 60 as 6 to play or chat, all depending on their needs at the moment.

The journey we had together has influenced us as a family tremendously, and had a large impact on the kids personalities. We are very close. We are used to having to rely on each other and to share experiences. The kids have learned that whatever hits you you can find a way. That there are many different ways to live your life and that you can actually choose. You do not have to think like everyone else or to do as they do. They have developed their social skills and are comfortable and assertive when meeting new people.

What are your impressions of the cruising community?
Great people! Every one of them resourceful and interesting, helpful, supportive. These are people who have managed to break out and live differently. People are pack animals; it takes guts and character to break out. We have found some of our dearest friends cruising. For our kids, and for us, it is amazing what a great leveller cruising is. Age, culture, socioeconomic background doesn’t mean much on the high seas, but your character does.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?
Most do their trip and then when completed go home. Apart from that grand children and family issues rank high. Of course many need to go back to work. Also life ashore is not too bad. We are just very lucky we can do both! For us also the kids education is very important. Homeschooling worked very well, but as they get older it becomes more difficult. Also the social development that they get by interacting with their classmates is valuable.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
Oh, this is a tricky one. There are many interesting angles into cruising; the psychology onboard, the boat and the route. I feel much is said about cruising routes. Some is said about boats but no one has thoroughly investigated what actually works for long distance sailing. The psychology of the whole thing interest me being a psychologist myself. Who makes it and who doesn’t? As you sail through the ports of the world you find many that did not make it. I don’t think the dream comes alive for quite a few. They underestimate the stress, the planning, the weather, the repairs, the expenses.... How many actually enjoy it? Don't know but far from everyone, perhaps as much as a third do not find what they were looking for.

16 January 2011

New IWAC Companion Site: Newly Salted

A few months ago, I asked for feedback on ways to keep this site useful. Via comments and direct emails the suggestion was raised to interview cruisers who had been cruising fewer than 2 years. In this way, the Newly Salted companion site was formed.

The first interview, with Zero to Cruising, will go live this Wednesday, January 19th, 2011.

Please make yourself at home and learn about the Newly Salted site. Or more importantly suggest interviewees or volunteer to be interviewed.

Interviews will come out sporadically, not every Monday like the Interview With a Cruiser Project. For this reason, and so you don't miss them when they arrive, I recommend you subscribe either by email or by feed reader using the options at the bottom of every page on the Newly Salted site. You can subscribe to this site in the same way - remember that your subscriptions to each site are separate and that I won't use your email address for anything.

13 January 2011

10 Questions for Shadowtime

shadowtime Gary Pierce and Julie, his wife of 36 years, cruised aboard Shadowtime, an Island Packet 35 footer that was cutter rigged and hailed from The Woodlands, Texas, USA. Gary jokes: I often said I single-handed in the Caribbean with my wife aboard…just kidding. They bought Shadowtime in May of 1994,  left from Kemah, Texas in November 1994 taking 22 days with to stops to reach Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.  Shadowtime never left the Caribbean. Gary & Julie went from Venezuela and Trinidad in the South to the Virgin Islands in the North, up and down the Windward's and Leeward's for eight years until selling the boat in October 2002. They have a website that covers sailboat cruising and a number of other frugal lifestyles. 

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
I first got the inspiration for the sailboat cruising lifestyle when we are in St. Thomas on a cruise ship in 1989.  We took a shore excursion on a 36 foot sailboat that took us and two other couples out for four hours on a sailboat…I had never been on a sailboat before… It was love at first sight…when the cruise ship left St. Thomas that evening I looked down at the boats that were swinging at anchor and resolved that one day I would be down there looking back the cruise ships leaving to go back to the US.

Five years later we did just that.  We watched cruise ships leave Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands from the cockpit of Shadowtime.

Since I didn't know how to sail.  I subscribed to Sail magazine, Cruising World, read every book I could get my hands on about sailing. I took crewed charters from the Moorings.  Sailing classes on Clear Lake near home in Houston.  It was a crash course.  I was still green when we left for the Caribbean.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear? What is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should worry about?
The number one thing that cruise you should not be afraid of is that they don't know enough about sailing...  You pick it up as you go. The docks are full of people that say I'm going sailing once I get a bigger boat, Capt.'s license, ham license, etc.  They are still there on the dock.

Another fear that is overrated is the fear of piracy.  I never heard of anyone encountering pirates in our eight years in the Caribbean.

You should worry about having too much fun.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?
Too many to list here… One example we’ve written about was our dinghy and outboard motor selection and anchoring, we made some real bonehead mistakes. You make a lot of mistakes but shall also learn a lot your first year. Do not worry about making mistakes everyone makes them.  Remember, those that state that they never drug their anchor at night have only been cruising for a week or they are lying.

How did you fund your cruise?
From meager savings that we had accumulated in our working careers. Once you are in the Caribbean sailboat cruising is a very frugal way to live. We figured we spent about $1000 a month when we were in the islands.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising?
Getting along with your first mate or partner.  There is no personal space on a 35 foot sailboat.  Trust me on this one. Do couples argue and still cruise? Sure...  But you learn to avoid them.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?
Piracy and crime in the Caribbean. These myths are right up there with you got to know everything about your boat before you go cruising… you don't… you pick it up as you go.

shadowtime2 Were you more attracted to sailing itself or cruising as travel or lifestyle and has that changed over time?
In my humble opinion there is a big difference between cruising and sailing.  99% of the time we were swinging on the hook or rarely at the dock, (Trinidad). You go for the stressless lifestyle that sailboat cruising affords.  Cruisers don't hang much with the yellow slicker crowd in the Caribbean. You can always tell a cruiser from a sailor. The cruising boats all have wind generators and solar panels.

It's the lifestyle that makes cruising so wonderful especially in the Caribbean.  I really don't want to be on a boat if I can't wear swim trunks and a T-shirt and be warm.

What compromises did you make in your budget to enjoy the sailing cruising lifestyle?
Not much of anything.  You need to know the basics.  Know where your thru hulls are.  Know how to bleed a diesel engine. Learn to clean the carburetor in your outboard motor. Enjoying cruising on a sailboat is not rocket science.

You will find that there is very much a sense of community among sailboat cruisers.  You swap parts.  You swap expertise, someone may need some electrical work, and be willing to swap that for some
sewing for instance.

What piece of gear would you leave on the dock?
You make a mistake by buying what you think you'll need when you go cruising.  It is much better, to wait until you reach your cruising grounds.  Then simply observe what everybody else is doing using.  The mistakes we made with our dinghy and outboard motor bear testimony to this.  Talk about dumb and dumber.

We also kept an accurate inventory of what was on board Shadowtime. If we didn't use it in a year  off it went...  All space on a sailboat is precious.

What question do you wish I had asked you?

The eight years we spent on Shadowtime in the Caribbean, were probably the highlight of our 36 years together.  We didn't worry about hurricanes, because we hauled the boat out of the water during the
summer time.  It is no fun to be dodging tropical storms and hurricanes, in looking for safe harbor under the again.

There is there is no downside to the sailing cruising lifestyle if you get along with your spouse or partner. When we bought our sailboat in May of 1994, and announced that we were going cruising in the Caribbean later that year, lots of folks laughed at us.  They said we would never do it.  Some of the same people are
still on the same dock.  Don't let this happen to you.  Nike has it right:  Just do it...  And enjoy yourselves.
If there is a more fun, more relaxing, lifestyle than sailboat cruising in warm water. I don't know what it is. I hope this encourages you to take the plunge ,so to speak, throw off the lines and live the life Jimmy Buffett sings about.

10 January 2011

10 Questions for Shiraz

shiraz1 Steve and Rene Slack cruise aboard Shiraz, a Fountaine Pajot, Venezia 42 catamaran hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. They departed the US in 2002, completed a circumnavigation in 2010 and are still living aboard. They can be reached by email (slackadventure@yahoo.com).

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool
There are many such moments but let us give you three examples:

1. Anchored in the San Blas Islands we join several other couples for sundowners. There was a couple from Austria, several couples from the US and a very accomplished jazz saxophone player from the Netherlands and his “significant other” a lady from Honduras. After a day of snorkeling in crystal clear water with an abundance of sea life, we were sitting back enjoying the company with the moon reflecting on the water while listening to some of the best jazz we have ever heard. You just reflect and wonder how lucky you are to be able to do what you always wanted to do and to find that there is a select community of people to share the experience with.

2. Arriving at Dolphin Reef in the Red Sea, our companion boat, a wonderful couple from Turkey, call us on the radio alerting us to a herd of dolphin nearby. We entered the water to see if we could get close. In about thirty feet of water we were surrounded by sixty or so dolphin as they swam around us and occasionally nudged us. The encounter lasted for about 30 minutes and we can all remember how difficult it was breathing through our snorkels with such wide grins on our faces. If you enjoy snorkeling, you’ve got to love it.

3. Arriving in the Galapagos we now had our longest passage under belt and we knew we were committed to continue to head west exploring places we knew very little about. Our visit to the Galapagos lived up to its expectations. We dove to see hammerhead sharks, visited the tortoises and enjoyed the interaction with the locals and other cruisers but mostly there we felt a sense of accomplishment and adventure we had not felt before.

What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle?
Separation from your family. You love what you’re doing but you are missing so many events in your families life. You miss the celebrations of birthdays, weddings, holidays and you also feel the guilt that you aren’t there to help when you know you could. But the price of communication has been falling and you can certainly stay in touch without much effort and expense.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
We outfitted the boat with an AIS system in 2007 in Langkawi, Malaysia and it greatly enhanced our ability to determine the course and speed of nearby heavy traffic. The AIS provides you with the CPA (closest point of approach) and the TCPA well in advance of even seeing the vessel. This gives you plenty of time to maneuver if you need to. It took a great deal of the anxiety out of night passages but it is of course only a supplement to conducting a good watch.

shiraz3How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Reading about the experience of others and cruising guides are a good way to understand watch procedures, provisioning, clearance, boat repairs, and other aspects about the life style. We took radio courses, CPR, Spanish lessons, attended sailing school but mostly it’s OJT. The hardest part about going cruising is releasing the lines.

Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited.
Everywhere we went we had positive experiences with local people and the international sailors we met along the way soon became our best friends. Once in Ismalia, Egypt we were wandering around looking for a certain restaurant. A young lady asked if she could be of help and guided us to the restaurant. Not only that but the next day she provided a guided tour of the local area. Our website (slack adventure.com) is full of such encounters in every country we stopped.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
We had no offshore experience when we departed although we did have an experienced (?) crew member for our first ten days at sea. Our on board experience consisted of 10 days at the Annapolis School of Seamanship and 10 days at the Chapman School of Seamanship. I wouldn’t advise that everyone depart with such little experience but it worked for us.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?
Go now. Too many people wait for all the dominos to fall before they decide to depart and that rarely happens. We know of people who lost their spouse while cruising and the surviving spouses always said these were the happiest years of their life. You’re not running away from problems or discourse but rather running to adventure.

Over the years, how much time do you think you spend at anchor, at marinas, sailing and motoring?
shiraz2 We have been living aboard for over eight years and calculated that three years were spent in marinas in order to travel inland, travel back to the US or to sit out the hurricane or cyclone season. We were at anchor or on a mooring for another three years and that leaves two years of sailing. Without time constraints we were able to avoided motoring whenever possible and in fact for the eight years we averaged purchasing only 400 gallons of diesel a year and most of that was to run our generator to power our water maker.

How do you recommend securing your vessel while going ashore? And your dinghy?
First it is imperative that you are comfortable with the set of your anchor. We are very patient when finding the right spot and we back down hard to make sure our anchor is holding but of course much depends on the type of bottom because even as cautious as we are we did drag a few times. We lock the main cabin door, leaving nothing on the rails like fishing poles and lock our dinghy when ashore. We never tow our dingy and we lift the dinghy every night. It’s a habit we got in to while in Venezuela.

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

Here are three questions everyone asks:

How fast does your boat go?   We don’t know and for the most part we don’t care.
Did you run into any pirates?    No, and we never had our car hijacked.
How much does it cost a year?     How much do you have?  That is how much it will cost.

We believe cruising is all about being comfortable. As your experience grows so will your competency and your comfort zone. A ten day passage is not much different than a three day passage. There is one thing that every cruiser should know how to do and that is to heave-to. It is an important skill when arriving someplace before daylight and if the weather is too rough for your autopilot to hold a course. Practice in calm weather and find out what works best for your boat and where the chafe points are.

03 January 2011

10 Questions for Grace

grace Shane, Nicole, Neisha, Jessica and Jackson Collins cruised from June 2007 - October 2010 aboard Grace,  a 49 foot Halberg Rassy hailing from Mooloolaba, Australia. During that time they cruised through Scandinavia, the SW coast England, the Atlantic coast Europe, the Med, and the Canaries, the Caribbean, and the Pacific through to NZ. Readers can find them on their two blogs or by sending them an email (slowtravel@gmail.com). They report that the hardest decision for them to do this, was to make the decision to do this.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Go slower then go slower again.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
Sailing the inside passage on the west coast of Scandinavia. To be in 30 meters of water but to nearly be able to touch the rock face's you pass. To pull into magically beautiful towns and tie up ( for free ) in deserted boat marinas. To wander through fantastic forests, picking berries. To view amazing archipelagos from cliff top perches. To walk in the paths that have been walked for hundreds of years. To marvel at the worlds amazing history. To experience strange and new foods. To learn new languages. To laugh out loud with locals when you get it wrong. Then to contrast. In the warm waters of the Caribbean and South Pacific. To take a early morning swim off the back of the boat. To snorkel and dive fantastic coral and to swim with turtles. To find great surf breaks with no one there. To catch Mahi Mahi and cook it immediately. To kayak with humpback whales. To walk secluded beaches. To have sundowners with friends on a beach watching the sun go down and the kids playing along the shore. To share all this and more with the people you love most!

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
What's to dislike?!! I can't say we actually disliked anything that much. Maybe sometimes the lack of space, but that wasn't a major concern. I would say the fridge annoyed me. Its only that to get to the thing you most want you have to pull other things out to get to the said item......Actually that is true for a lot of storage on the boat. It is usually at the back or the bottom.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
CQR anchor. Why? Because if you leave it (and change anchors) you won't have to worry so much that you may be dragging.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds?
No, but dock sale can be great. A dock sale is like a cruisers garage sale. Usually held in the winter months or coming into spring when everyone starts thinking of sailing again. It is a trade, swap or sale kind of day. Cruisers even bring out their crafts and preserves they have been working on over the winter to sell. Our kids made and sold jewelery. Lots of fun.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?
Morocco, specifically Rabat. The city has just opened up to cruisers and was a amazing place to visit. The authorities were friendly the facilities great. We were worried about visiting with children, but we need not have been. The colorful spectacle and smell of the markets attacked the senses. The architecture is spectacular.  It is a wonderful base to leave the boat to travel inland.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?
There are so many! People often ask or presume you have to deal with big seas. While that may happen, if you sail with the seasons and don't have to rush, you quite possibly won't see any. We certainly didn't.

How do you recommend securing your vessel while going ashore? And your dinghy?
For the vessel the most you can do is close and lock hatches and lock the main entrance.We also would sometimes turn off the engine isolation switch and take personal items off the deck i.e. fishing rods, etc. There are more options of course but if someone is serious about gaining entry, they generally will. I would add we had no problem what so ever.

The dingy and outboard is a different matter. Get the heaviest chain/cable and padlocks you can. Lock the outboard, fuel and dingy ALWAYS! When traveling in Sicily we had a attempt to steal our dingy but they couldn't get through our heavy duty locks.

How has cruising affected your personal relationships?
Strengthened them. Prior to leaving we ran a business that required allot of commuting, so to then go to a 24/7 existence was a big change. You see the best and worst of someone living so close. You learn not to sweat the small stuff and appreciate your partners and children's special skills. You depend on one another and the buck stops with you.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
Shane loves the sailing and the cruising to travel, I love the destination but over time have come to enjoy cruising to travel.

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 cruising given to you and your family?

Cruising has given us the ability to spend time together as a family and to really get to know each other again. It has enabled us to 'linger a little longer' while traveling as we did not have constraints of time or accommodation costs. It has allowed us to meet some amazing people in amazing locations. Cruising together has made us truly appreciate what we have.