29 September 2011

10 Questions for Gallivanter

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

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

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

What is your biggest lesson learned?

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

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?

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

What do you think is a common cruising myth?

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

In your experience, how much does cruising cost?

It costs everything you've got.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?

Go now. One can never be fully prepared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been the hardest part of this lifestyle?

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

26 September 2011

10 Questions for Hotspur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**These answers are from a family poll**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Cruising is easy".

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

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

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

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

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

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

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

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

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

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

19 September 2011

10 Questions for Pelican

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

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

You can learn more about his circumnavigation on his website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 September 2011

10 Questions for Alianna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you decide when you are ready to go cruising? 

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

09 September 2011

All good things must come to an end

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

05 September 2011

10 Questions for Nuage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What skills are necessary prior to casting off?

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