Alex Kao sailed out of Vancouver BC in the Fall of 2007 on Reflections No. 1, an Alexander 30. He now owns a Moody Salar 40 with his wife Leah and they plan to fix her up, save money for the next two years and take off again.
Alex says: I moved onto a Cheetah 26 when I was 20 and lived and sailed around Vancouver. 5 years later I sold her and I spent 2 months backpacking Venezuela and Tobago then lived in an apartment for 4 months. I missed the boating life so I bought and moved on to "Reflections No. 1". I spent the next 5 years sailing the BC coast and testing and fixing her up. She is a Alexander 30 sail boat. It is like an Alberg 30. The builder took a Gulf Island 29 mold and raised the freeboard about a foot. It has a 3/4 full keel. It is 29'6" long. My first leg was Victoria to San Diego. I took 2 crew: Greg and Jen. We did the trip in September. I left the boat in San Diego and returned to Vancouver to finish the work year. I returned on Dec 20 and solo sailed from San Diego to Puerto Escondido, Mexico stopping along the way. Then met a surfer named Jeremy and sailed to El Salvador. I wanted crew to cross the Gulf of Twanapec. I put the boat in a boat yard in May 2008 and returned to Vancouver to work. I returned to the boat at Christmas 2009. I did a lot of inland travel, ran a small boat yard and did a lot of fishing trips off the coast of El Salvador. Greg came down again in 2009 and sailed from El Salvador to Costa Rica with me. Leah, my now wife sailed from Costa Rica back to El Salvador in 2009. I also solo sailed from El Salvador to Nicaragua in 2009. I put the boat is storage again in May 2009 and returned to Vancouver to work. Leah and I came down together on Jan, 1 2010 and sailed from El Salvador to Costa Rica, Panama, Galapagos, Marqueses and Hawaii. I sailed solo from Hawaii to Port Renfrew BC and back to Vancouver in a August 2010.
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
That you need all of this equipment and toys. We got by with out a water maker, radar, sat phone, our SSB only received and had a safe and great time but some other cruisers thought we were nuts. At every port I saw someone fixing or cleaning a water maker. If I remember right I could get 5 gallons of bottled water for $2.50 a most places.
How do you fund your cruise?
I worked along the way by fixing other cruisers boats and returned to Canada to work full time. I am a Marine diesel mechanic and worked along the way and when I ran out of money or hurricane season I returned to Vancouver to work.
What is your biggest lesson learned?
I learnt a lot about weather and how slow a hurricane travels. When we were sailing from Marquises to Hawaii. There were 2 hurricanes off Mexico, 1000 miles away from us. We saw them on weather fax and were nervous until we found how slow they move.
Finish this sentence. "Generally when I am provisioning..."
I buy too much canned food and not enough fresh. I forget how long fresh food will last.
Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
We stopped at a island in Northwest Panama and had it to our selves for 5 days and never saw anyone else. It was so desolate I could get coconuts with out climbing trees.
What do you think is a common cruising myth
We had some smooth passages on a 29 footer (Galapagos to Marqueses - 24 days). Sure it would be more comfortable on a bigger boat but you sure don't need a 45-50 footer like most of the boats we saw out there.
When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
We had a freighter sneak up on us. We were doing 18 min watches. It was Leah's watch and I was awake reading. I heard the VHF buzz and since we we 1000 miles from anywhere I knew there must be another boat around. I went up and scanned the horizon. The sun was setting and we had the main out all the way on a broad broad reach. The freighter must had been in the sun and I didn't see it. I went back down below, 5 min later we were hit by a bigger than normal wave. I commented to Leah about it but didn't get up. 1 min later we were hailed by the freighter, I popped up to the deck and it was a quarter mile away after passing in front us.
Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
After that freighter scare I bought a AIS receiver in Hawaii. I love it and wouldn't go off shore again with out one.
What was the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or cheap about each area?
In Panama beer in the grocery store was 35 cents but every cab driver charged different prices for the same ride. In Marquesas restaurant food when available cost a lot but you could trade for fruit and veggies. Galapagos burgers were $3.50.