19 July 2010

10 Questions for Malua

Harry and Denny Watson Smith cruise aboard Malua, an Adams Bluewater 42 hailing from Sydney, Australia. On their current boat they've been cruising since 2003 including Australia, the Pacific, and Mediterranean. More information can be found on their website and blog and they can be contacted via email (harryws@malua.com.au). Harry says: I have been sailing most of my life in the area of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. This has influenced by outlook to sailing and the type of vessels I will sail on. Since 1986 I have sailed along the east coast of Australia which has similar weather and sea conditions. Malua, my dream boat, was built to suit these conditions however after cruising the Pacific I decided I need more culture than nature so I shipped her to the Mediterranean where we have sailed for four summers. We return after six months crruising to Australia during the northern winter. I volunteer at our local Marine Rescue where I am a coxswain of the rescue lifeboat so I spend quite some time afloat each year. We still maintain our home while cruising.

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

I set about selecting a boat for cruising off the Australian east coast. My previous sailing experience was off the Cape of Good Hope so naturally I chose a very seaworth design. Because I wanted to fit out and rig the vessel myself there were only a few builders in Australia who would only build the hull and deck within my budget. That limited the selection however I chose an Australian designer Joe Adams and had the 42 foot vessel built then transported to my home for completion. I then set about completing my dream boat within three years. Some of the attributes of the boat are;

* Able to sail it single handed with all lines, halyards and controls including reefing all sails to be run to a deep aft cockpit.
* Adequate tankage for water and diesel so that it does not become an issue and water desalination is not a requirement.
* Hard dodger for protection from waves, rain and the wind. This I added after the initial build and cruise.
* Large navigation station with comfortable chair in which one can doze.
* Independent power generating capacity either through a generator, in my case DC or solar panels.

Malua has turned out to be everything I wished for and I would change very little to meet my cruising needs however most of the features are for safety while accommodation, convenience and comfort may rank higher for other cruisers and different cruising areas. One can sail in almost anything with good judgment and planning.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?

I included, at the navigation station, a reclining, swivelling chair. It is ideal while sailing and at anchor. I should have included another executive style chair or easy chair for my wife to use while at anchor. The settee is comfortable but does not have arm rests and is not designed for a relaxing seat.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?

We generally sail shorthanded so the watch system varies depending on the duration of the passage. On anything longer than two nights, a three-hour on and a three-hour off schedule during darkness is followed. Anyone can sleep during the day as long as it works out about equal. I sail single handed on many passages and have a watch commander electronic alarm. In most offshore situations I set it for 27 minutes between alarms. If I wake before it goes off, I reset it for the next cycle and return to sleep. After a few days I get more than enough sleep each day.

Over the years, how much time do you think you spend at anchor, at marinas, sailing and motoring?

We spend by far the greatest time at anchor and consequently the interior design of Malua reflects this. The galley is longitudinal but has a safe corner and a safety strap to hold the cook in place. Meals during rough weather are put together not created so there is no need for confined spaces. Many handholds are a requirement.

On passage is the next longest time. In the Mediterranean it is defiantly motoring while in the Pacific it was sailing.

Marinas and harbours play a very small part in our lives as they are expensive, the chance of damage high and they offer little advantage. If we wish to undertake extensive land travel in the area we use a marina for safety reasons.

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?

On most occasions we spend as long as we need in a location to enjoy the surroundings. Port Davie in Tasmania, Australia is certainly the most beautiful cruising ground while Venice (at anchor at Burano) is the stand out cultural experience of our cruise.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette.

One should contribute to the cruising community in all possible ways. Physical resources are precious to any cruising boat so when you visit make sure you offer something in return for the hospitality. If a part is required offer your spare, it will be replaced many times over. Advice should also be shared when ever possible.

How do you fund your cruise?

Once the boat has been purchased and setup we find we go cruising to save money from the everyday expense of living. We are in the retirement age so we have put some funds away for the next few years. The rate of drawdown varies depending on where we cruise. We may die poor but rich in experience and cruising memories.

How has cruising affected your personal relationships?

The sea uncovers all the weakness in one’s boat, one’s self and one’s relationship. The most difficult is to confront your weakness not necessary when alone but in company with your crew or your partner. We have always used each other strengths to build the relationship which means on the boat I do most of the sailing while Denny’s calm demeanour and sound planning judgement is never at a loss. Having personal space is a very important aspect of a cruising relationship.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising?

Tolerance is the most important personal attribute but a good practical mechanical understanding has to come second. Not only are you able to diagnose problems before they become issues but when something breaks having the ability to fix it on the fly saves money, time and heartbreak. I believe it can be learnt. I have taken things apart or fixed things all my life and this has given me a wealth of experience on which to call when confronted by a part not working or a design issue to be solved.

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 manage your sleep?

I believe this is an import aspect of successful long term cruising. The number of times that we have been at anchor and had to get up in the night to attend to the boat or stand anchor watch because the wind has come up is uncountable. Having the ability to go back to sleep immediately or fall asleep as soon as one gets into the bunk is very important. We have a rule on Malua that we can sleep whenever we are tired, day or night. If after a few days passage and you can’t keep your eyes open we change watches and the person goes to sleep. Having a comfortable bunk is a prerequisite but also getting out of your wet weather gear into suitable sleep gear is essential.