31 October 2011

10 Questions for Leander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 October 2011

10 Questions for Brillig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 October 2011

10 Questions for Silas Crosby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banking , taken care of by Herself at Home.

Mail : what mail?

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

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

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

How do you fund your cruise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03 October 2011

10 Questions for TimeMachine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite part about cruising?

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