03 May 2010

10 Questions for Billabong

Chris and KT Myles cruised from 2003 to 2009 on Billabong, their 42 foot Gibsea 126 Master. They cruised through the North and South Pacific, SE Asia, the Indian Ocean, Red Sea & Turkey. They can be reached by email here or here and have a blog and a website. They are both self-professed software/blogging/photography geeks and their son was born in Turkey at the end of their trip.

Describe your first sailing experience
Our first experience together was beating to weather in 25+ knots while everyone else turned around and went home. KT didn't have much sailing experience and we were leaving on our big trip in a couple of months so we had to keep going. The good news was she didn't know any different and didn't complain at all.. she thought that's what cruising was all about.

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?

I think the scariest moment was when we hit a whale at night under full spinnaker. The collision nearly stopped us and the dramatic change in speed made the boat feel like it was listing bow down. We both ran around in circles trying to figure out what to do next. The confusion probably only lasted 10 sec and we settled into our "routine".. start the engine (to scare away the whale), report our position/situation to our buddy boat, check the bilge and water tight compartment for water.. and breathe! I would have loved to check the keel but a front came through about three hours later and we ended up beating into 30+ knots which extended our simple overnight into a two night trip (KT was not happy).

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?

Kiribati, the Red Sea and the northern/eastern part of Fiji were all amazing. I can't even begin to describe the experiences we enjoyed with the locals, so giving and open yet so "poor". We spent two seasons in Fiji and went north to the Marshall Islands for a safe place during cyclone season. Tuvalu and Kiribati are really off the beaten path and extremely remote but well worth the trip if you are prepared for it!

Is there something from your land life that you weren't sure about bringing and are very happy about having brought now?
Multiple computers are a must. We were both computer geeks so we brought a photo/video computer and a navigation computer. In the end we ended up with spares for each with a complete backup system that would allow us to swap disks on the nav computer in about 20 seconds (we tested it out of necessity in Australia).

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
There are some changes we made along the way but I think it's important to settle into a style and a basic system before you add all the expensive gear. We used two hand held GPS (that could be stowed in the oven) coupled to a charting package (OziExplorer) that supported satellite photos and used Google Earth instead of buying an expensive chart plotter.

Describe a "typical day" on passage on your boat

Early morning usually involved our email transfer via Sat phone to update our blog and download the weather. That was followed by lots of laying around reading books and fishing, I became a fanatic. Ok maybe fishing is a strong word.. more like dropping a lure in the water and then playing with it's action. I have recently tried what land lubbers call fishing with all that casting and stuff.. I'm not a huge fan, I also don't like paying $20 lb for sashimi grade fish!! Some couples had a non-alcoholic happy hour to enjoy each others company and connect every day, it's amazing how quickly the time flies by.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
We didn't have any real breakage issues but I had spares for nearly everything so of course those things didn't break (I was known as "spare man").

How much does cruising cost?
Pretty much whatever you want! We lived relatively cheaply but our costs nearly doubled in countries like NZ and Australia when we drove around to see all the sites. Check out the cost break down and cost information on our FAQ page.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We sold everything and went. Too many people are sitting in harbors with boats that are more than ready to go. Just do it!

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 most important attribute for successful cruising? After the basics of navigation and anchoring I would consider problem solving and commitment/communication the most critical skills. We spent a lot of time walking through scenarios and potential issues so we were ready before they happened. I also didn't sugar coat what might happen ("when the boat is upside down") and we discussed our fears/concerns openly before we left. With any major change there will always be hiccups in the beginning so we committed to each other that we would give it at least a year no matter how bad it got. There should be only one captain (for critical decision making situations) but cruising is definitely a team sport and both parties should be comfortable.. that often takes effort, openness and introspection.