04 October 2010

10 Questions for Velella

velella4 Wendy Hinman and Garth Wilcox have been cruising aboard Velella, a 31 foot Tom Wylie design made with cold molded wood, hailing from Seattle, Washington, USA. They cruised together from 2000-2007. Their cruise included Mexico, Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Nuie, Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomons, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Pohnpei, Saipan, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and Canada. They bought a boat that fit their budget better than it fit Garth's large frame and left with a loose plan of voyaging for as long as they were enjoying ourselves – not imagining that they would be gone for seven years.  They managed to stay sane and married after 34,000 miles.  Wendy is writing a book about some of their (mis)adventures along the way. Prior to their cruise, Garth circumnavigated via the Suez and Panama Canals from 1973-1978 on a 40 foot double Ender Pinky named Vela in the days of celestial navigation when hardly anyone thought of doing such a crazy thing as sailing velella7around the world. They have tips for prospective cruisers on their blog which focus on sailing a small and simple boat.  They can also be reached by email (wendyhinman@gmail.com).

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer? 
We fell in love with most every place we visited. We would love to have stayed longer nearly everywhere except the Philippines and the Solomon Islands, mostly because we felt like walking wallets and that got old quickly.    That said, the diving there was fantastic.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?  
velella1 On the whole, we experienced more light winds than heavy winds, and had to beat more often than we might have liked.  We are really glad our boat sails well in light winds because we HATE to motor.  It's hot, noisy, smelly, expensive and it's bad for the environment.   Plus we're on a sailboat for God's sake!  The wind comes up eventually.  The point of our lifestyle was to slow down, right?  But seriously in seven years we faced some of everything, including typhoons and gales/storms.   Fortunately we gradually worked our way up to higher winds rather than getting our asses kicked from the start.  We never had to deploy a drogue, a sea anchor or the storm trisail, though we carried them.  We'd had good practice racing boats for years and that was helpful experience.  The toughest part of bad weather is when it comes up unexpectedly, especially when things aren't stowed or you're asleep.  On many occasions while anchored, the wind shifted radically, putting us uncomfortably close to a lee shore when our engine was acting up. We got good at sailing in and out of anchorages.  I think the most useful preparation for cruising we did was to live and cruise our boat locally before we left.  That gave us a good feel for what worked and what didn't before we left behind the convenience of local resources, a car and a paycheck.  Once we knew how our boat handled, bad weather didn't seem nearly as intimidating.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you? 
velella5 I learned that Mother Nature was my new boss and that her favorite time of day for shenanigans is 3am.  There's something tremendously unpleasant about reanchoring the "house" at 3am.   I didn't mind doing laundry by hand, except for sheets; one sheet took up the entire bucket and that's more hand-wringing than I'm capable of.  Another thing I found annoying is the perpetually wet butt I had after any dinghy ride, at least until Garth built a two part nesting/sailing dinghy.   Take some diaper rash cream!  Shorter passages are sometimes just as hard or harder than longer ones because it takes the first few days to get into the rhythm and after that it gets easier.

What is your favorite piece of boating related new technology?  
LED tricolors and anchor lights take almost no electricity.  The anchor lights are solar sensitive so automatically come on when it gets dark.  Makes it easy to find home on a dark night.  And they fit into regular aqua-signal lenses.  Call us luddites, but we love our two part nesting/sailing dinghy.  There's nothing like a peaceful row back to the boat under the stars.

In your experience, how much does cruising cost?  
velella2 Cruising costs depend on where you are and how extravagant you want to live.  Ask a Hollywood celebrity how much it costs to live and then a welfare mother and you'll get radically different answers. We tried to live on the amount our house rent brought in, which was $1000 per month, or about $33/day.  That's not much for groceries, charts, communications costs, boat maintenance, government check in fees, etc. and we weren't always successful.  Occasionally we splurged for special tours and dinners out. When we hung out with other boats living on the cheap or stayed in remote anchorages where there was nothing to spend money on, it was much easier to stay within our budget.  And after we'd spent time in places where we'd done lots of boat maintenance/upgrades or where "yachtie inflation" has distorted the cost of things, sometimes we didn't have much choice.  But we learned you can be miserable with everything or happy with nothing. 

Share a piece of cruising etiquette.  
When you tie up your dinghy at the dinghy dock, leave a long painter so other dinghies can get in close to the dock to drop off passengers.  You can loop a bowline through under other people's lines onto a cleat so that others (who may not be able to tie a knot) won't have to untie you to leave.  Don't fill your dive tanks at 7am!

velella6 Of the changes, choices and compromises you had to make along the way, which were you happiest and most satisfied about, which do you wish you had chosen otherwise and why?  
We didn't try to replicate the complex luxuries of our life ashore and that left us more open to the adventure that we set out to have.  We kept our expectations small and our program simple so we could afford to just go and not worry about leaving and losing the boat.  On the other hand, we wish we'd selected a boat on which Garth could stand up properly, so we might never have had to come back!

Finish this sentence. "Generally when I am provisioning..." 
Generally when I am provisioning I immediately decant everything I can into Snapware airtight containers and remove all cardboard from the boat to avoid critters and other uninvited guests aboard.  If I can ditch the cardboard before getting back to the boat, all the better.

velella3 What is your biggest lesson learned?  
To live in the moment and appreciate the wonder of the world and the incredibly lucky situation we're in.  Living simply helps us appreciate the small, most important things in life that all the clutter in our lives can make us forget.  And to keep in mind that the hardest times make some of the best stories.  Oh, and boats don't like to keep schedules.

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 think cruising has changed over the years?

In many ways people are trying to recreate their lives onshore and that introduces the same pressures to cruising life that we're looking to escape.  They find they must turn into expert mechanics or carry a lot of money to keep up with all the complex systems aboard that often keep them from enjoying life's simple pleasures and the places where they are.