27 June 2011

10 Questions for African Innovation

ai3 Andreas Julseth and friends cruised from 2008 to 2010 aboard African Innovation, a FastCat 435 (43’) hailing from officially from Durban, South Africa but unofficially from Stavanger, Norway. He cruised through Europe, Caribbean, Central America, Galapagos, South Pacific and Australia. Readers can learn more through his website or through email (andreas@julseth.com).

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
More solar panels. I thought 430 watts would be enough, because I also had a Seabreeze wind gen, but boy was I wrong. Several times I contemplated sawing the pole off that held the wind gen and throwing the whole thing into the ocean, because it was such a disappointment. The solar panels on the other hand were silent, efficient and never let me down. It depends on where you sail, but in warm areas with lots of sun I would do without a wind gen (in a heart-beat) and add solar panels.

Once I got into the Pacific I wished I had an SSB to keep in touch with other boats over longer distances (using a sat phone becomes very expensive) and a larger dinghy with a more powerful outboard to increase my range from an anchorage, especially when thinking about exploring and fishing.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
Hardly ever. PPPPP = Proper Planning Prevents Piss-poor Performance ;-) I avoid the big storms by not sailing in hurricane and typhoon areas when they are in season. Before I set off on a passage, I check grib files and talk to other cruisers to find the most recent forecast and based on that I avoid getting stuck in bad weather. The only times I've been hammered are when squalls have hit. In the worst one, the winds picked up to 45 knots, rain reduced visibility so I couldn't even see the mast and I was almost knocked down. It only lasted about 30 minutes, so it wasn't too horrible. Experience teaches you how to avoid or at least predict squalls, so you can take measures early and either give them a wide berth, or reduce your sail area before they hit.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
That the World isn't as unspoiled as I'd like. It's almost impossible to sail away from it all and not have other boats around. I was also sad to see how poorly the environment is taken care of in many of the beautiful places I sailed to.

ai2 Tell me your favorite thing about your boat
The stability two hulls gives you. When monohulls are rocking and hating life in an anchorage, I barely feel any movement.

Is there something from your land life that you brought cruising and feel silly about bringing now?
Too much warm clothing. Once I hit Panama I didn't need them before I got to Australia.

Describe your first sailing experience
I bought a boat and took possession of it in Slovenia, a 3000 km away from where I lived. I loaded up a car and drove alone down there to take over the boat. My biggest problem was that I had never sailed before and it was a bit overwhelming to step on board the boat, not knowing how anything worked. In order to figure out how to set the sail, I had to spy on other boats with binoculars, because I couldn't figure out how the in-mast furling worked. Then once I got it out, I couldn't figure out how to get the rolling genoa in. After a few scary sea trials and a day circling outside the harbor, I cast off and sailed solo in the Med. for a year. It was a lot of fun, but I had a very steep learning curve.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Don't prepare yourself to death. It's better to just go for it, because no one ever leaves fully prepared and most of the preparations you do, you normally end up changing afterwards anyways.

ai1 In your experience, how much does cruising cost?
Always more than you plan and budget with. If I didn't do the occasional charter and had friends and crew sail with me who contributed I would be dead broke long ago.

Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited
We were anchored in Daniel's Bay on Nuka Hiva (In the Marquesas). The anchorage was off a beautiful beach and together with a couple of other boats, we wanted to do a BBQ there. There was a small cabin on the beach, which belonged to two local hunters. We asked them for permission to do the BBQ and invited them to partake. With their permission, we set up and did a very successful BBQ. The two hunters joined when we were well into our 3rd bottle of rum ;-) and they enjoyed our food, drinks and hospitality. They were so overwhelmed that the next night, they threw a BBQ for us. They hunted a wild pig and a goat in the morning, soaked it in milk and cooked it over the fire at night. That along with coconut soaked bread fruit made for some of the most delicious food I ate on the entire trip.
I have numerous other wonderful experiences with locals, but this was one of the top ones.

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

What would you do differently if you were doing the trip again?

Since I'm planning to do it again, this is something I'm definitely thinking about. I spent a lot of time in the Eastern Caribbean and to be honest I wish I would have moved on quicker. Western Caribbean has so much to offer and you won't be competing with quite as many boats for each anchorage. The real treat for me was the Pacific and to think that I only spent a season there feels like some irredeemable crime, that I have to remedy. You need at the very minimum 2 seasons to get from Panama to NZ or Oz, unless you plan to rush it. I might skip Galapagos next time, not because it's not worth it, it definitely is and it's fantastic, but because they are so strict as to where you can anchor, so in my view, you're actually better off flying out there and doing a 9 day cruise of the islands instead. Having said that, I might still stop by, just because it's a nice stopping point when you're sailing from Panama to French Polynesia. Once you get to the "South Pacific", you go from one amazing chain of islands to the next. I can't say that one is better or worse than the other, they are all unique and equally sensational. I just wish I had more time there to do it properly. When I do it again, I hope I can spend 3 seasons there, before I head on. We'll see ... First I need to save up money, buy a new boat ... etc. Most people ask me, "now that you've done it, do you have the sailing bug out of your system?" ... Not even close, now I can proceed into it knowing that there really isn't that much to worry about. You just have to get out there and do it.

25 June 2011

Salty, Power and Tracking

Salty: If you haven't checked out the Newly Salted site recently, there are now interviews with 13 new(ish) cruising boats. Also posted is an explanation of the project and how to be interviewed. As always, please suggest people to interview to help the resource grow via email (iwac.project@gmail.com).

Power: If you know of any powercruisers who might enjoy participating in the IWAC or Newly Salted sites, please suggest them (or volunteer yourself). I don't discriminate based on sails.

Tracking: You can receive the Interview With A Cruiser Project or the Newly Salted sites delivered to your inbox via email. Subscription options are at the bottom of each page. Alternatively, you can keep track of what is going on (and comment) on our Facebook page.

20 June 2011

10 Questions for Low Key

low key Captain Woody and crew (Dena onboard CA to and around Australia, Tom Tahiti, Keith and Joanie Fiji, Donna South Atlantic, Jay Brazil to French Guiana, Gretchen and Rick Trinidad to ABC's, Angela ABC's to San Blas, Phil through canal, Mike Panama to Costa Rica, Terry Costa Rica) crewed on cruising boats from 1994 to 1996, began skippering in Mexico and Canada in 2002 and circumnavigated in his own boat (Low Key, a Cal 33 hailing from Manhattan Beach, CA, USA) from 2003 to 2005. He currently does deliveries. On his circumnavigation he left California and went over Australia, under Africa, through the Panama Canal and back to California. Captain Woody writes a regular column for Latitudes & Attitudes magazine. You can read articles and learn about his book on his website.

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?
I learned early on that the most boats are inherently safe.  In other words, while the human passengers may be terrified during rough conditions, the boat is completely at ease.  While crossing the Indian Ocean on my coastal cruiser we had hill sized waves roll over us, Low Key and I, again and again.  The first time it happened, at night of course, I was concerned.  During the day I watched it happen again and again.  The deck and house would completely disappear under the wave. Low Key would emerge slowly, shake off the water and carry on. Structurally, Low Key seemed completely unaffected.

New cruisers concern themselves with a lot of things, most are non issues or cannot be controlled.  Something that I think they do not concern themselves with enough is boat prep.  When heading to sea everything should be secured below and nothing should be on deck. Your boat should be able to lean 90 degrees with nothing falling onto the floor.  That's for a normal downwind easy ocean crossing.  If you are travelling in the wrong season, rounding the horn or cruising high latitudes the boat should be prepped for 180 degree roll.  That's strapped batteries and oven and floor boards that lock.

What do you find most exciting about your cruising life?
The Nature mostly.  From the closeness to animals to the awesomeness ;) of the ocean itself, grinding and seething in it's day to day job of creating global weather.  Waterfalls, ecosystems, villagers and the aerodynamics and challenge involved in getting around the world on 160 gallons of diesel.  The freedom to do whatever you want and to go where you please.

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
We get this question at the magazine a lot.  Men tend to take their new to sailing women out in rough conditions to prove their ability to handle themselves and the boat (or disprove same).  We suggest a 'sail' across the bay on a flat windless day to a restaurant or calm bay anchor, BBQ and overnighter.  Get her excited about pure beauty of cruising first.  At sea break-in should occur later and at a gradual pace.
I should note that it's not always the man's plan.  We had a couple partner defections on fellow cruising boats in Bora Bora.  In both cases it was the man that didn't take to cruising and headed off home leaving the women to their bliss.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
I don't make a secret of it.  I never cared for sailing more than other sports.  I was in it to see cool landfalls.  I didn't achieve a more heightened admiration for being at sea until I started singlehanding longer legs.  When it was just me and the boat and the sea and it's creatures ... alone at last.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
Pirates for one.  There are some tiny areas on the planet that real piracy occurs.  Smart cruisers avoid them, same as they avoid hurricane season.  Don't go there and never worry about it.  Note that if you like cruising near large cities you raise your risk of being robbed, usually when you're not onboard.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
Diving off the stern in any of those warm tropical islands with perfect water and white sand.
In the water feeding the rays off Moorea comes to mind.  So friendly they swam up your body.
Finally at anchor after any long bumpy passage, enjoying arrival coldies in our deck chairs forward, admiring some beautiful island, from calm flat beautiful water.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?
Travelling in a pack is safer.  Besides the possibility of night collisions, groups tend to make bad weather and routing decisions based on the needs of the group.  Real pirates would prefer to collect from 20 boats instead of one small one.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
It was always a loose plan, in some form, since childhood.  But it doesn't get real until you make a reasonably firm departure date, even if it's years away.  I wanted to travel and figured a boat would give me more flexibility.  Over the years I acquired a usable boat, the skills via crewing, the money via skippering and finally a partner to set the date with.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Read everything (don't forget Cruising Low Key ;).  Get a general feel and try not to take any one source as law.  Do a sailing leg on another boat.  Maybe do a charter.  You want to figure out what your needs are and especially what you can live without.  If your funds are limited or you value your free time, don't put too much gear onboard. Every piece comes with maintenance.  Low Key was very simple.  We spent more time at waterfalls and hiking and hanging out with locals than our fellow cruisers.  And we kept a more flexible schedule as I only once waited for a part to come in (mainsail).

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

I think you were very thorough.

People often think things will be different when they head out to cruise.  Usually we bring our shore anxieties with us.  Practice a mellow personality, easygoing-ness while still ashore as part of your voyage prep.  The sea will teach you that you really have no controlover the big picture.  It's a beautiful thing to realize.  Getting stressed is a waste of time.  Everything works out, trust the process.

Whether you're home or out there, please leave a clean wake.

16 June 2011

10 Questions for Cloverleaf

cloverleaf2 David Feiges, chief mechanic, Beverly Feiges, chief helms-person and Navi-guesser began cruising in 1977 aboard Cloverleaf, a Krogen design built by Treworgy Yachts hailing from Sioux City, Iowa, USA. They traveled the East coast of the USA from Maine to western Florida, most all of the Bahamas, all the eastern Caribbean, Venezuela, Jamaica Caymans and western Caribbean from Honduras through Mexico, the Mediterranean from the Balearics to Turkey, south to Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt.  You keep track of them on their blog or via email (cloverleaf@cloverleaf.com).

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Not to worry about not having our lives wrapped up with the three couples we were so close to in Iowa, and that we could become addicted, and I really mean addicted, to constantly meeting new people with new stories to tell.

What is your most common sail combination on passage?
When we sailed, (for the first 21 years of our cruising life) we used jib, main, and mizzen. Downwind we used spinnaker and mizzen staysail, We consider a pole to wing out either the jib or spinnaker to be an essential. Check my article "If You Really Want To Sail" in an SCA bulletin a few years back.

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
I hate to even admit this, but one night anchored in the offshore island of Aves, with no other vessel even in radio hailing distance except what I thought was a suspicious Venezuelan boat. Dave refused to worry and he was right; we later learned from the area ranger, this was a Venezuelan buy boat, which explained all the small boats coming and going.

What is your biggest lesson learned?
Don't be afraid to alter course when conditions warrant. We learned this, and it took twice, on rough passages from Caicos to Dominican Republic, and the Virgins to St. Martin. In both cases there were alternate harbors, and falling off to reach them would have turned an exciting and rough upwind slog, to a pleasant, exciting reach.

cloverleaf Describe a "typical day" at anchor on your boat
I love the long slow breakfast times when we are not rushed, can take our food and a full pot of coffee to the cockpit or what I now call "the back porch," enjoy the scenery, have plenty of time to talk and even read a chapter out loud from our current book. Then we will each go to work, doing chores, housekeeping, whatever, and if the water is warm, a swim, in fact on really hot days, multiple swims. If we are lucky, we will meet some neighbors and share the sundowner hours with them. We end the evening, now since we got the dish, with some evening TV. It doesn't get much better than that.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
Get it as big as you can afford to maintain. Bigger is easier, it is more stable, there is room for more goodies and more room to do the maintenance. Life is more pleasant, but only if you can afford the bill. Bigger is for sure more expensive, it is not harder to handle,but don't buy more than what you can comfortably afford. Whatever you buy, if you don't keep it up,it will be dangerous.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
We had to think long and hard about that one, since with good maintenance, there is usually nothing repetitive, except when we foolishly try to keep old equipment running long after its used by date, as happened with our old generator and windlass. Otherwise, I would have to say toilets, both electric and hand pump variety, often related to having guests.

How do you fund your cruise?
Dave's quick answer is he calls our boys, who took over the business, and tells them, "Trip costing more than expected, WORK HARDER." In truth, we are retired now, but Dave did not really leave the working world when we first bought the cruising boat. We did it in short chunks, built around school vacations, and did not consider himself fully retired until 65.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
I love the people we meet, the joy in sharing their adventures and ours, the openheartedness of almost all the cruising community. On the negative there are a few, you hear them on the radio, usually someone who has not been humbled by mother nature yet, who can say the most awful things. Fortunately very seldom, but the Jersey Shore seems an area you are most likely to hear this sort of thing.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
Maybe a question about favorite books, especially cruising books, like the Saga of Cimba or Fair Winds and Far Places, or favorite entertainment equipment, like satellite radio, and TV.

13 June 2011

10 Questions for Magnolia

magnolia Bill Dietrich has been cruising since 2001 aboard Magnolia, a 1973 Gulfstar 44 motor-sailor ketch hailing from Miami, FL, USA. Over those years he has cruised the Florida Keys, Bahamas, USA East Coast, Turks, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Leeward Islands and Windward Islands. He is single, started cruising at age 43, is now age 52, and Magnolia is his first vessel owned. You can read more about Bill on his website.

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?
I guess everyone is afraid of piracy or attacks these days, with them in the news so much.  There have been some incidents in Venezuela and Honduras recently, I think, but other than that I think the Caribbean is pretty safe. If I were a potential cruiser, I wouldn't worry about that.

Maybe people worry about being seriously ill while on the boat and outside the USA.  Recently I had a kidney-stone attack while on the boat in Martinique, and I don't speak French. I spent 8 hours in an Emergency Room, got care as good as any in the USA, and the total bill was $250.  Now, being seriously ill in a more isolated place, and especially if singlehanding, would be worse. But I'd worry more about getting hit by a car in the USA than about getting ill on a boat while cruising.

People should think more about the little things that can bite you. On a delivery a couple of years ago, I slipped on a wet, rolling swim platform with no handholds, crashed down on my back across the edge of the platform, and ended up in the water.  I got away with a badly bruised back, but I could have broken vertebrae, or hit my head and drowned.  Everyday activities such as raising anchor or operating the dinghy could cause major injuries if you're unlucky.  About eight years ago, I met a couple in the Chesapeake who had sailed up from South Africa with no problems.  In the Chesapeake one day, the lady was on the foredeck to take down the jib.  A jib-sheet wrapped around her leg and yanked her into the air, upside-down.  She got away with deep rope-galls to her leg, but she could have had her brains bashed out against the deck.

What do you find most exciting about your cruising life?
The most exciting thing is just that I've "broken out of the rut" and am living a new lifestyle.  At age 40, I found myself living in apartment and cubicle, doing the same old things at work and the same mostly-fun things on the weekends.  Now, I have totally changed my life and lifestyle, am seeing new places and learning and doing new things.  And there are a hundred other possible lifestyles waiting out there if I ever get tired of cruising.  The sense of freedom and possibilities is pretty exciting.

And it's fun to hear from family and friends and strangers who marvel that I am doing this.  Some of them say "we plan to be cruising too in another 5 years or so".  Many of them have a "that's really cool, but I'm glad you're doing it instead of me" attitude.  And my Mom still thinks I'm crazy for giving up a career and paycheck and medical insurance, and doesn't see why anyone would create a web site and expose their life to the public.  But that's Mom.

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
I'm not the best person to answer this, being a single guy.  I had a reluctant girlfriend follow me onto the boat for a few months, and she left both because she didn't like cruising, and because our relationship was not that solid to begin with.  I was ready to end my career, and she wasn't ready to end hers.  She had created a nice living situation back in California, and I hadn't.  She had an aging father to be with. Lots of reasons.

I'd guess your relationship with your partner would have to be pretty solid to overcome reluctance.  Of course, money might cure a lot of the problem.  An expensive boat with lots of amenities would make the reluctant partner happier.  Frequent plane-trips back to see family and friends would help.  Lots of wining and dining and excursions would help.

Be very careful in this area.  Buying and then having to sell a big boat not long afterwards could cost you a lot of money. Ending up with an unhappy wife would be very bad.  Finding that the guy loves cruising and the wife hates it may be fairly common.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
I'd say my highest focus is "living comfortably", followed by "seeing new places", followed by "sailing".  I'm perfectly happy spending a month or two somewhere with a comfortable and safe anchorage, nice weather, a little snorkeling, maybe some decent radio, lots of time to read books, some internet, a supermarket nearby, decent prices. I'm living my life most of the time, just being "everyday me".

But I get itchy after a month or two, and it's fun to move to somewhere new, explore it a bit, meet some new people.  So the "travel" part of it is fun, but secondary to the "living comfortably" part.  Frankly, new islands are interesting, but they're kind of limited.  Not a lot of history or museums or libraries or culture, compared to the USA.  Yes, they each have their own share of each, but not in the quantity and depth you'd find in the USA or Europe.  In my opinion, in the whole of the NE and E Caribbean down to the Grenadines, maybe the really good historic sites can be counted on one hand: old San Juan PR, the forts of St Croix, English Harbor Antigua, the fort at Iles des Saintes Guadeloupe. And the local people are nice, but frankly they're not as interesting as the other cruisers !  Many of the local people haven't been out of their own country, maybe they're not very well-educated, and they're living the conventional kind of life that us cruisers left behind.
Further down the list for me is "sailing".  Yes, it's a rush to turn off the engine and sail, and a feeling of accomplishment when you arrive. Maybe if my boat sailed better, I'd be more interested in the sailing aspect of this life.  But I probably spend 10-20 days at anchor for every 1 day moving.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
Before I started cruising, I read everything I could get my hands on, and such a variety, that I think I had a fairly accurate picture of cruising. So I can't say that I had any major misconceptions.

I will say that cruising magazines focus way too much on new boats, and cruising guidebooks focus way too much on marinas and restaurants.  Maybe I'm outside their target audience; I have plenty of money but I'm trying to live on my savings for the rest of my life, so I try to live cheaply. I suppose the magazines and guidebooks get their advertising from boat-builders and restaurants, so they follow the money.

I guess a surprise to me was how little exercise I get while living on the boat, unless I make a big effort to go exercise.  On land, I played tennis and hiked and bicycled.  On the boat, I find myself sitting and reading. Tennis is out, many island roads are too dangerous or hilly to bike or run on, and hiking is hit-or-miss.  Snorkeling isn't very strenuous.  Often the effort of closing up the boat, launching the dinghy, getting ashore, then having to reverse the process, is enough to keep me vegetating on the boat.

On the other hand, raising anchor by hand from 30 feet can leave the heart pounding, there are nice hikes on some islands, and I eat more healthily than I used to. I biked a fair amount when I was cruising the USA and Puerto Rico. I walk a lot on islands, not having a car, but distances aren't great.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation.
I'm striking out a bit on this one.  Dolphins playing under the bow as I motored down the inside of the Florida Keys ?  Sitting in Baltimore harbor on July 4th and watching fireworks from half a dozen different cities ? Cruising down the Mississippi and feeling the Civil War history and the travels of Mark Twain ?  Anchoring my sailboat in Jamestown VA, next to the replicas of the sailboats that brought the Jamestown settlers across ? I've had those experiences.

I'd love to see whales from my boat, but I haven't.  Always wanted to see a space-shuttle launch from my boat, but I was never in the right place at the right time.  Would like to see a nuclear submarine in the wild.
Lots of smaller, quiet moments.  Nice sunset while sitting on the boat in a comfortable anchorage, full of a good dinner and a little buzzed from a rum-and-coke.  Satisfaction of figuring out something and accomplishing a repair job.  Reading a book picked at random out of a book-exchange and finding out it's a great book.  Having a really nice conversation with a couple of cruisers you just met and probably will never see again. Snorkeling and seeing squid hovering in small packs.

What has been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or expensive about each area?
The USA was the most affordable, except that river or ICW trips mean a lot of motoring.  And of course I stayed out of marinas and off moorings.

In the Caribbean and just north of it:  Bahamas are expensive (govt fees, food, fuel, everything).  Dominican Republic has expensive govt fees.  The French islands have expensive fuel.

But you can save by being smart.  My boat has a big fuel tank and lots of storage space, so I can buy fuel and food where they're cheaper. I catch rainwater, so I don't have to buy water.  I stocked up in USA before going to Bahamas; I stocked up in St Thomas before going to British Virgin Islands.  [That's one reason it's hard to answer the "how much does it cost ?" question; some months I'll spend a lot of money while stocking up, then spend nothing for a while.]

Another big expense: plane flights back to USA a couple of times a year. They get more expensive as you get to more isolated places. And sometimes two adjacent islands will have hugely different airfares to the USA, maybe a 2-1 ratio.  [I've found I need a "vacation from the boat" twice a year: once at Christmas and once in the summer.  Great to get off the boat, to reconnect with my family, and to enjoy modern conveniences.]
The bigger factors are independent of where you cruise.  Stay out of marinas and restaurants and bars, and stay off paid moorings.  Do as much of your own repair work as you can.  Those strategies will save you TONS of money; savings on fuel and food pale by comparison.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
I had an easier time of it than most people.  I was single, living in an apartment, with lots of money saved up.  So for me, the biggest hurdle was the sheer willpower needed to make a major change in my life.  It's a big, scary change, no doubt about it.  Ending a career, giving up steady paycheck and medical insurance, moving across the country, moving onto a boat.  I was a bit wacky, mentally, the first couple of months aboard the boat.  Had I made a big mistake?

I've met people who say they plan to cruise, and they have a family and pets and a business and two houses and mortgages and eight vehicles. I don't know if they're going to do it.  The hurdle may be too high.
And full-time cruising on a big boat is not for everyone.  There are lots of ways to have fun with boats.  Maybe day-sailing, or trailer-sailing, or kayaking.  Maybe occasional chartering.

I'm very glad I started cruising when I was fairly young, age 43.  I've met older people who want to cruise, but their health just won't allow it. And the change from conventional life to a new lifestyle can be traumatic; now I know why guys retire at 65 and die from a heart attack a few months later. I met a nice 65-ish couple on a boat in Miami harbor.  He had retired six months earlier, they'd started cruising, and then he'd had two heart attacks. Their cruising plans were in ruins.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
I tell people: as soon as you start even thinking about going cruising, start simplifying your life.  Sell everything down to the bare minimum, and then sell beyond that.  Ideally, sell the house and move into an apartment. The process could take years.

And at the end of it, suppose your dream changes and you no longer want to go cruising ?  You now have a much simpler life, and that opens up all kinds of options you didn't have before.  Now you can decide to travel by plane or RV, volunteer a la the Peace Corps, or any other life you choose.  You are free from the burden of all those possessions you used to have.

Another thing: stop spending !  The best way to save money is to not spend it. Stop going to restaurants and bars, stop buying clothes, quit smoking, stop buying CDs and magazines and books.  Cook your own meals, drink at home, use the library, take up cheap activities such as running or hiking or bicycling.

Get a boat later, rather than sooner.  You don't want to have a big boat sitting in a marina slip for months or years while you try to sell your house and simplify the rest of your life.  A big boat demands a lot of your time; juggling a boat, house, job and family at the same time won't work. You can repair and upgrade the boat as you do your first short cruises; it doesn't have to be perfect before you can move aboard and cruise.

I took sailing lessons for a year in SF Bay, and then used the school sailboats for another year.  That was very worthwhile, and I'd recommend it.  But getting the boat to move and navigating it aren't very difficult, really.  I spend more of my time cleaning the boat and repairing things.  Now and then I hear from would-be cruisers who are nervous about navigation; they shouldn't be.

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 it like to live and cruise on a boat?

It's a very individual thing, and it's what you make of it.  It depends on your circumstances (marriage, money, personality, health, skills) and your choices (location, boat, lifestyle, interests) and chance (weather, daily experiences, adventures, adverse events). Probably no two cruisers cruise exactly the same way.  And you can change the way you cruise, as needed.  Maybe you'll acquire a partner, lose your existing partner, decide to change boats, change locations, maybe decide you can afford to spend more, maybe you'll run short of money.

Some things are harder to change than others.  I dread the day I ever try to sell my boat; some people seem to buy and sell as if it's a casual activity, but selling seems really hard to me.  Money is as much of an issue for cruisers as it is for everyone else.  Your personality won't change overnight just because you start cruising; don't expect to suddenly become a "party animal".

Before I started cruising, I thought I might be tired of it after five years or so. But I've found it's getting better and better.  I'm close to the 10-year mark, and I don't foresee giving up this lifestyle any time soon.  I've seen maybe 10% of the Caribbean, so there's plenty of new territory left.  [I have no desire to cross oceans.] Cruising has lots of ups and downs, like any other lifestyle.  Sometimes it's hot and humid and buggy and the anchorage is rolly and it seems like half of the stuff on the boat is broken.  And as I said earlier, it's not for everyone.  But often it's wonderful, and it's changed my life for the better.  I'm very glad I'm cruising.

06 June 2011

10 Questions for Balvenie

at anchor in St Tropez Mark and Amanda have been cruising since 2004 aboard Balvenie, a Townson 47ft hailing from Auckland, New Zealand. They have traveled through the South Pacific, Tasmania, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Asia, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, & the Mediterranean. You can read more about them on their blogs (Yacht Balvenie, Balvenie Cruising Info) or contact them by email (yachtbalvenie@gmail.com).

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
While in the Med we have met several males sailing with other male friends while their wives stay at home to "look after the furniture"!   Sailing, especially long term cruising definitely seems to be a male dream more than a female one and I (Amanda) have tried to convince a few wives along the way that it really is a great way of life. But it is so dependant on the person, and what sort of person they are.  If they have always wanted to travel, love the outdoors and don't have tight family ties then even if they don't like sailing there is hope.  If they love regular family get togethers, strolling through the shops every week for the latest fashion bargains and having their holidays in 5 star hotels - well no hope at all.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette
We left New Zealand and went straight to Fiji.  After recovering from the trip we started cruising the islands and in our first anchorage there was only us and a Canadian boat.  They invited us over for sundowners, so we turned up at the agreed time.  And we learnt our first piece of cruising etiquette.  BYO Drinks!! And for those of you unfamiliar with BYO it is BRING YOUR OWN.  This is particularly prevalent in places like the Pacific, Asia, Red Sea (we are still in Med so can't comment for further on).  The reason being is that in all of these places it is difficult to get supplies so you buy for your own needs because you know how much you drink, it works well and everyone does it.  We have, however, had some people quite offended in the Med when we have turned up with our own drinks, however when we explain why they all think it's a great idea.  In the "boonies" we always take some nibbles over too, its common practice.   

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
Mark had been yacht racing for a few years so had plenty of inshore experience.  He got a crew place onboard a yacht doing the Auckland-Noumea race and also helped a friend bring his yacht back from Fiji to Auckland one year, and did any off shore races he could.  When we bought Balvenie she was in Picton at the top of the South Island so we had a 4 day trip to get her back to Auckland which was my (Amanda’s) first off shore.  We had 3 male friends onboard with us for this trip, and 2 more onboard for our Auckland - Fiji passage. 

What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle?
Mark - Staying positive.  Of course it seems we have the most idyllic lifestyle and we do, BUT of course there are days when everything goes wrong, it's never just one little thing it will be an accumulation and often it may go on for days, normally not major things but enough small incidents often can be worse.  Then if you need things from ashore you are always in a foreign place, can't read the signs/labels, don't have a car to get to where you need to, can't find anyone who speaks English to help ....... 

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
When we left New Zealand we had spare oil filters and oil for the next oil change and that was about it.  Now we have a spare of nearly everything that moves and those that don't too!!  We have spent so much time in places that you just can't go ashore to a chandlery or even a hardware store that we are pretty much self sufficient now.  We have helped out other cruisers too by loaning spares when they have needed them, and we have been helped by others.

In your experience, how much does cruising cost?
The million dollar question!!  When we were preparing we were desperately trying to get this answer but so many people don't seem to keep tabs.  Then we were told by someone that you will spend what you can afford and this was very relevant, if you can't afford to go out for dinner, you don't.  If you can't afford much, well you share a pizza with a beer.  If you can afford it you have the lobster with a good bottle of wine.  I (Amanda) have kept exact records (yes, I'm one of these people with a notebook that logs everything - sad but true!!)  On our blog in the Labels there is one for "Cost of Cruising" which gives a breakdown of our last three cruising seasons.  Since we started, this is how it has been - these figures are in New Zealand Dollars and have been averaged out for a per week amount.
  • 2004 .... From NZ to Fiji Vanuatu, Australia, Tasmania just 34 weeks  $423  this did not include fully stocking the boat before we left NZ and it was jam packed full
  • 2005 .... Australia out to Papua New Guinea and back to Australia    $990
  • 2006 .... Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand    $767
  • 2007 .... Thailand, Malaysia   $1,128
  • 2008 .... Andamans, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece  $661
  • 2009 .... Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Malta    $921
  • 2010 .... Malta, Italy, France, Monaco, Spain    $1,149
NOTE.... no insurance is included in any of the above.  However everything else is in there, including trips home to New Zealand and England and also all our living expenses while NOT on the boat.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
balvenie2 It was recommended to us by our good friend George on Moonshadow that we should take Balvenie up to Fiji for the season, decide what we needed to change then go back to NZ and implement any changes we wanted to make.  In principal this is excellent advice but in practice for us it didn't fit with our plans to circumnavigate and saying goodbye once is hard enough!  So we would say just try and spend as much time at anchor on your boat before you leave your home port, that is very different to being onboard in the marina.  Learn about as many of the systems you have as possible, do all the courses that your local coastguard offers, speed read every book and relevant website you can find and store all those relevant pieces of info away, either in your brain or a folder.  You will never ever be ready to go, so just do as much as you can, then let the lines go.
 
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
Mark - Our two autopilots, they just do their job, tirelessly hour after hour, no coffee or dinner breaks, never question my decisions

Amanda - My Sailrite Sewing Machine.  It has saved us thousands of dollars in canvas replacements/repairs. It is also great to be able to help out others using it as I don't have many other skills to share.  Our stash of books, in particular our Lonely Planets.  It is great to have them in advance so you can read up about the places you are going and be well informed.  WIFI Aerial when we left you couldn't get internet on the boat, now we get pretty grumpy if we can't.  We have a great aerial that we bought from a cruiser friend when in Malaysia and it has served us very well along the way picking up free signals at anchor often a far way off.  Don't leave home without one.

What is something that you looked forward to about cruising when you were dreaming, that is as good or even better than imagined?
For us the opportunity to travel to so many different places that many people can not reach and then to be able to stay and experience these places from the comfort of our own floating home is priceless

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 the best part of this lifestyle?

The people.  We are part of a huge cruising community full of the most wonderful people from all walks of life and all countries.  We all have a common interest and are out here bobbing around, sharing our worries about the weather, the anchorages, the political state of the  countries we want to visit, whether to go east, west, north or south, or should we just stay another day or year.  We are a mobile community, spanning the globe and we are a community full of amazing people.  We have forged friendships we would have never have done at home - and that has made it all worthwhile.