29 March 2010

10 Questions for Bumfuzzle

Pat & Ali Schulte cruised aboard Bumfuzzle, a 35' Wildcat Catamaran hailing from Chicago, IL, USA, from 2003 to 2007 on a tradewind circumnavigation. Pat & Ali were 29 years old when they decided to sail around the world. They had never been on a sailboat before they came up with the idea. Pat & Ali took 8 hours of Sailing 101 on Lake Michigan and then, six months after the plan was struck, were sailing the Bahamas and on their way to becoming circumnavigators. Pat & Ali's tale can be found on their website and you can contact them directly at bums@bumfuzzle.com

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Nothing. But if I had to tell somebody else something I would tell them simply to GO. Don't worry about what boat you have, what gear you don't have yet, or even where you're going to go. Just go. Once you are out there you'll make do with your boat, you'll get by just fine without that expensive forward sonar, and your sailing plan will simply evolve as you learn what you really like and what kind of cruiser you are.

Is there a place you visited you wish you could have stayed longer?
We sort of wish we could have explored the Red Sea a bit more. We really enjoyed our time there between Eritrea, Sudan, and Egypt. We would have liked to be able to cruise the Saudi Arabia side a bit.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
Nothing really. We enjoyed it all more or less. We never became great sailors and actually sort of preferred motorsailing most of the time, but overall the sailing/cruising experience was everything we envisioned that it would be.

What are your impressions of the cruising community?
The cruising community surprised us a little bit with their pessimism and somewhat elitist attitude. That's generalizing greatly of course, but near to home it seemed most people we talked with didn't put much stock in our ability to sail a small boat around the world. Further afield the long term cruisers we ran into seemed to be in some sort of competition revolving around how long they'd been out cruising. We never really felt we meshed with the cruising community. That may have been due to our age at the time, or simply to our differences in perspectives.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
After 33,000 miles in the tradewinds we've decided that the number one criteria that the success of a circumnavigation hinges on is comfort. Not upwind ability, not sail selection, not any of the technical stuff. Comfort. Our catamaran was not a good sailing performer (probably due to us more than the boat), but it was a stable platform with plenty of room onboard. We were comfortable on long passages and, more importantly, we were comfortable in even the rolliest of anchorages. That enabled us to be well rested and happy. And really, without those things you can't expect to sail very far.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
We had zero offshore experience before leaving. In fact we had zero coastal experience before we left. We found that the Bahamas were the ideal cruising grounds to learn in. Soft sand bottom for running aground on slowly, great holding for the anchor, and protected anchorages that are never far away. We sailed through the islands for five months before setting out for Panama. By the time we did we felt totally confident in ourselves. We firmly believe that hands-on is the best way to learn.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
Virtually never. We saw 30 knots occasionally, 40 knots maybe three times, and 50 knots just once, and that was ten miles from Miami at the very end of our trip. The 40-50 knot stuff never lasted more than a couple of hours. We were more surprised by the amount of time spent becalmed out at sea. It seems to us that with today's weather forecasting that is available by e-mail at any time that there is little reason to get caught out in seriously bad weather. Especially sustained bad weather.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
We actually did a good job of not overpacking. Our boat broker was waiting for us at our boat when we arrived to move on. He looked over at our car and asked, "Where's your stuff?" We told him the few bags in the back were it and he was blown away. He said virtually everybody arrived in a U-Haul. The only thing I can think of that we'd leave behind next time were the two big plastic tubs we'd bought to do laundry in. We never used them and ditched them in New Zealand. Laundry service is available fairly cheaply in every single port around the world. Plus, it's not like you're wearing a lot of clothes out there.

Describe a "typical day" at anchor on your boat.
A typical day for us was to wake up, have coffee, download and reply to e-mails, and read for a bit in the morning sun. Maybe at some point try and do some little bit of boat work such as changing the engine oil or scraping the barnacles off the hull. Go ashore in the mid-afternoon and find a place to eat something. That would be "lunner", which was our meal of the day. Some cruisers love to cook, we are not one of them. Snorkel, spearfish, drink a beer while floating on a foam noodle. Sit out on deck and talk while the sun goes down. And then after dark maybe try to read a bit more, but more likely just fall asleep. Up with the sun, down with the sun. Our internal clocks revolved solely around daylight.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
I'd ask cruisers what they did to make a real and true effort towards making their dream a reality. It seems to me that a lot of the dreamers out there don't need to be dreamers. They have everything they need to get up and go, but they just can't make it happen. For us it was simply making sailing around the world a goal. Not a dream, but a goal. From day one we took the steps necessary to make it happen. We sold everything we owned. Literally. Our cars, our condo, our clothes, books, furniture, and on and on. By the end everything we had left fit in a small closet. This provided us with much of the funds as well as the freedom to walk away and commit to cruising.