19 April 2010

10 Questions for Annie Laurie

John MacDougall is cruising aboard Annie Laurie his Catalina 470, a 47' sloop with a wing/fin keel and spade rudder. He began cruising as a kid in 1966 and has been cruising on and off since then. Over the last 10-15 years he has been doing more long-range and offshore cruising. His travels have included the Bahamas, Caribbean, North Atlantic and Mediterranean. More details about his various refit projects can be found on his friend's website. He can be contacted via ka4wja@mfi.net or via PM at SSCA's forum. When asked "Is there anything else readers should know?" he replied: "Although, I've made my living in electronics and communications for 25+ years, and have an above average compliment of modern / advanced electronics on-board, I do NOT believe they are "necessary" and I do NOT rely on them, rather just use them as added-information devices...."

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
While good weather dominated most of my cruises and voyages, the bad weather always seems worse than I expected. The truth is that how often you face bad weather depends on "where" you're cruising and "how much you stay in one place, vs. being on the move often". But, in my experience, when offshore at sea or on the move from island to island, bad weather comes along only 3 - 4 days out of a month....NOT really as often as some think. (Actually, in my opinion, you should be just as prepared for "calms" and light air, as you are for bad weather and heavy air.)

Regarding how bad - I've sailed thru many Full Gales in the North Atlantic, usually lasting 1 - 3 days (with winds 35 - 45kts, and seas of 20' +), and even sailed for 3 days, thru a named Tropical Storm in the southern North Atlantic (with winds 40 - 50kts). And while at anchor I've survived 3 direct hits (including all 3 eyes passing over) of Cat 3 Hurricanes (110 - 120 kts). As well as many instances of generic "rough weather", with 20 - 30 kts winds and 12'+ seas, whether in the Med, the N. Atl. or the Caribbean, you can get bad weather anywhere.

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat.
Gosh, what a loaded, soft-ball, question since I like everything :) Like how she sails, how she steers, how well she handles heavy weather but can still perform like lightweight cruiser-racer, etc. etc.

But, if I had to pick my favorite things (which aren't on the proverbial list of "must haves" you see written about everywhere these days) it's a 2-way tie.
a) My cockpit.....I love it!!
It's specifically and strategically designed / constructed with two competing goals in mind....having plenty of room for relaxing/lounging/etc. and being a safe / secure place to sit, lay, steer, navigate, trim, adjust, etc. especially when in heavy weather!!!! It's a marvelous design, which I found only after actually seeing (and using) it. Photos and brochure descriptions didn't do it justice.

b) My Nav Station / Chart Table......mostly (> 95%) designed, laid-out, wired, and installed by me (with some constraints from some things). It allows for use of the entire chart table for charts!!! and allows all systems and electronics to be easily and conveniently used (and serviced) whether in heavy weather or sitting in a calm anchorage.

These two things make my boat a dream to cruise / voyage on, or even just to lounge about and have cold beverage!

Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed?
Most cruisers are wonderful people, and most local people that you meet along the way want to learn about us, just as much as we want to learn about them....
And, that has not changed!!!

But, yes there have been changes over the years. In addition to the inevitability of the world getting "smaller", and more and more people cruising contributing to a "blurring" of local culture in many places, I've found a few surprising trends:
a) Although they themselves may not realize that they're doing it, I find less and less cruisers are striving for independence and actually many cruisers who are relying on technology, as well as bringing on-board with them, much of the complexities of life "back-at-home" and "on-land".
b) A growing emphasis (especially in those long-term cruiser-saturated locales) on the "party-lifestyle", with cruisers seeming to bring the alcohol-laden materialistic attitudes with them to "paradise", and usually unintentionally suppressing, rather than embracing, the local culture in the process. Please don't interpret the above as me ranting about the present, nor raving about the good 'ole days. It's just my description of the changes that I see.

What is your favorite piece of boating related new technology?
a) GPS. Plain and simple, GPS in my opinion has had the single biggest positive impact on boating, sailing, cruising, and voyaging. Understand that this coming from a guy who learned celestial nav as a teenager, and continues to play with my sextant and tables, when on a long passage, etc. But, having a GPS fix 24/7, rain or shine, that you can plot every hour or so, has revolutionized life on board.

b) Although it isn't new technology, the improved cost effectiveness of solar energy, over the past 5 - 10 years, has also made a significant positive effect on cruising / voyaging.

Why did you decide to cruise?
Hmmm, didn't realize I had a choice..... :)
Part time cruising was just what we did when I was a young kid, and then more full-time later and even though I managed only part-time cruising for many years, that lust for adventure never goes away.

So, the short answer is:
The need to voyage to far off places, explore different cultures and share mine with them, and attempt to use mother nature as best as I can along the way, pretty much sums it up.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
In addition to the usual: modern offshore design and construction of hull, deck, keel, rudder, rig, hatches, etc., I'd add two things:

Space and Ventilation
a) Don't go too small, since you'll need space for things to make life easy and fun. While some may think of only storage space....I'd also remember the space needed for solar panels, water tanks (and/or watermaker), etc....as well as cockpit space and other living space. And, the usual storage space for spares, for food, and misc things (for other hobbies, such as SCUBA, photography, music, electronics, etc.)

b) Ventilation - especially if looking to voyage / cruise in the tropics, lots of strong, offshore designed and built, opening ports and hatches (and add lots of 12vdc fans as well).

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?
Yes, both the Azores and Canary Islands. The people were happy and friendly, their cultures were interesting, and the scenery was fantastic. I'm looking forward to spending more time cruising around both, the next chance I get.

And, if you want a older reference, it would be the old Yugoslavia in the 1970's (still Tito's era). The old walled city of Dubrovnik, and the wonderful people there and in Mustar (?).....ah those were simply the nicest people I'd ever met (followed closely by the Bahamians, Spanish, Portuguese, and Turkish...all tied for 2nd place.)

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Well, I never bought into the consumer-driven lifestyle, even when working full-time in my own business, I knew I had a reason for working and it wasn't to buy a fancy new car, but rather to enjoy my family, my friends, and my life voyaging and cruising. So, some landlubber, high-living, baby-boomers may think I sacrificed some things, but I don't think so at all.

I simply "kept my eyes-on-the-prize" and since I'm now only in my late 40's, I've still got places to go (and some to go to again) and people / cultures to enjoy!!!

My advice: Don't buy that new car, or that new Plasma screen TV, etc. Enjoy what you have, especially your friends and family, and don't spend every $ on useless crap that you don't "need", and you'll find your dream within reach in no time at all.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
I have two that come to mind immediately, one serious and heart-warming, and one funny.

a) Hanging onto the wheel with both hands, as the Lavante wind driven spray drenches my glasses, I'm smiling ear to ear. Yes, I'm tired, and we're close hauled, beating hard into steep 6' - 8' seas, with 20 - 25 knots of wind across the deck, but I'm smiling. I haven't slept more than 4 to 6 hours out of every 24 in weeks, and we've been hand steering for the final 300 miles, and I'm still smiling. There are more than a dozen freighters, container ships, and tankers, whizzing by at full cruising speed, in both directions, just a few hundred yards off my starboard side, but this doesn't phase me at all. After more than 4000 miles of sailing, the Rock of Gibraltar is just a few miles ahead and Jebel Meza, the pillar marking the entrance to the continent of Africa, is visible thru my salt stained lenses. And while I excuse most, including my crew of 2 (my sister Laurie and our friend Jordan, who are busy staring in awe through their camera lenses), from misunderstanding my smile, there are 2 people on the planet that do understand my smile, even though they are 4000 miles away, and won't see me for some time, those 2 understanding souls are my Mom and Dad.
b) Freaking out dozens of Europeans, when grilling some "Bubba Burgers" on my gas grill off the stern in Marina Horta (Faial, Azores), in celebration of a 3000+ passage from Florida. Some onlookers were certain we were on fire, and a few even ran down the quay shouting in multiple foreign tongues...but, alas we were just friendly outgoing Americans, "sharing some of our culture"!!!

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?
This one here from the question bank: Can you think of a sailing tip specific to offshore passages?
Learn the old school way of doing things, and use it regularly......do NOT rely on high-tech and/or electronics (I'm not saying that you need to go back to the days of canvas and manila!!!! Just remember to not buy into the "hi-tech" ways too much)
To clarify:
a) Rig main boom preventers (on both sides), and USE them (boom vangs and boom brakes are NOT a substitute!!!)
b) I'm of the opinion that chartplotters have their usefulness (I have 2 on-board), but when sailing offshore, and/or on passages, it's a waste of energy, space, and $$$. Plot your course on paper charts and fix/plot your position on them (GPS and celestial / DR) regularly.
c) NEVER be afraid and always remember that while Mother Nature can usually be worked with and/or worked around she cannot be beaten, at least not very often :)