24 January 2011

10 Questions for Sage

sage2 Connie McCann and Tony Gibb are currently cruising aboard Sage, a Wauquiez 38 Mk1 hailing from Victoria BC, Canada. They began cruising in 1983 onboard their first boat Hejira, a Vancouver 27, on which they sailed through the Pacific (Mexico, French Polynesia, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Mexico, Solomons, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Philippines, Japan and US). They began cruising again in 2010 aboard Sage. You can keep track of their current voyage via their blog. Editor's note: Because of an error on my part, there are more than 10 questions. Bonus for the readers!

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
Tony: One of the most important criteria is seaworthiness.  The boat has to be well constructed, well rigged and perform well under sail.  The additional add ons such as electronic gear is not so important nor critical for safe offshore passage making.  It does make it easier but it's better to go sailing now then wait till you have the money to buy all the fancy electronic gear.
Connie:  Performance. Shoal draft. Solid construction. Our Vancouver 27 certainly had 2 of those but lacked the performance factor.

What are your impressions of the cruising community?
Tony: For us the cruising community in every port has been incredibly supportive. Everyone pitches in when help is needed and when emergencies require everyone to work together.  The downside is that it's hard to say goodbye to people one has spent time with. It seems to be always saying goodbye although the longer one is out cruising the more frequent those chances at reunification are in some small out of the way place where one can once again spend time getting to know and enjoy each other.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
Connie:  I truly am thrilled and always newly amazed at finding an island with a sextant and may miss that thrill as we have joined the electronic navigation world. Landfalls are very special, searching with your eyes for land then seeing it at a great distance as in the case of Attu in the Aleutians or searching and searching and not finding it until you are almost on top of it as in the Tuamotos is not something that can be easily described to land based folks.

I don’t like not being able to talk about politics with most folks and relish the days when I can. I have spent a large percentage of my life working in the political realm and am always keen to know what is happening politically in both my home country and in the country I am anchored in.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?
Tony: Usually use 3 on 3 off although now with a larger boat we do expect to have more people onboard and have been using 2 on 4 off for Sage when crewed by 3 people.  This has worked very well providing consistent watches within the 24 hour period.

When have you felt most in danger and what was the source?
Tony: Sailing between the San Bernadino Straits and Okinawa we were followed by a Taiwanese (?) fishboat with no-one on deck and no communication.  This fishing boat followed us for about 3 hours and was never more than 50 metres from our starboard aft quarter. All we could do was keep sailing and hope that they were not interested in such small pickings from a very basic boat.

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?
Tony: Going when we were young and poor.  This provided us an opportunity of working and living in other countries to try and pay the bills and keep the cruising life alive.  We never understood when meeting people 55+ when they said they wish they had done it when they were younger.  Now that we're out sailing again we can understand why.  The compromise in the above was the fact that we had to choose a smaller boat than we would have liked but it was affordable.  I can't think of anything at this time in terms of choosing otherwise.

Over the years, how much time do you think you spend at anchor, at marinas, sailing and motoring?
Tony: Anchor (80%), at marinas (5%), sailing (10%) and motoring (5%)

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
Tony: By providing the tools for the reluctant partner to be able to manage the boat on his/her own resources.  Every person on the boat should be knowledgeable and have the ability to handle every aspect on the boat on their own.  This sense of empowerment may provide the reluctant partner not only the ability to manage the boat but also the confidence that should something happen to the other person that they're not helpless.  It doesn't mean that the person has the interest in all the aspects of running the boat but they will learn where their strengths are, focus on their strengths to complement the team while also understanding where their weaknesses are and not ignoring them but at least having a basic understand and knowledge about how to manage them when necessary.

What has been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or expensive about each area?
Tony: Most affordable - Philippines - food is plentiful and cheap.  Facilities and land travelling are reasonable. 

Most expensive - the U.S. - food and marinas are expensive.  The temptation to tie up to a dock is enticing and difficult to resist as the marinas are usually located in prime locations for services and land touring. 

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
Connie:  When we moved the coast within 3 months we bought a small inexpensive sailboat but we sailed it extensively here in the Pacific North West, mostly during the winter season. We sailed obsessively – on the boat from Friday night at 5 pm until very late Sunday. Took weeks in the winter season to sail longer distances. We propped up Eric Hiscock’s Cruising under Sail and practiced everything, from sailing out the anchor to sitting in the Juan de Fuca straights hove to. We made lists (and after 3 boats still making lists) especially the list for the boat that would take us across oceans.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
Connie:  Always saying goodbye. Tony and I are both outgoing sorts of people and we make new friends easily. It became difficult to say goodbye. Having to work. From 1983-1990 during our Pacific circumnavigation we had to work – we would work for one year and sail a year. By the end, in Japan 1990 it became a touch labourious. This was one of the primary reasons that we returned – to have an income and not have to work. We enjoyed our work sojourns but it was the sailing that we really wanted to do.

sage1 What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Connie:  This will be different for Tony but for me it is about seasickness – I wish someone had told me about Sturgeron. I finally found out about it in Australia and my sailing life became a touch less violent in the first three days! I know that people told us of the need for sun protection but perhaps because we are from the North and the sun does not have quite the same strength – we just didn’t take sun protection seriously enough. Our new boat is much better at sun protection while we are sailing.

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
Connie:  Never too many spares. Engine parts are problematic – do you carry an extra transmission? We don’t but did have that discussion when a spare one became available.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
Connie:  I may have been attracted to the travel aspect prior to offshore but I came to enjoy the sailing just for the heck of it. I did not come to sailing naturally – I had to work at it. However I love the aspect that I am traveling with my home – that is a very special relationship and so very different from land traveling.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?
Connie:  Everywhere I have sailed to was underrated. Too often travelers tell you ‘oh you should have been here xxx years ago – it was better’. I simply don’t believe that – yes, it is different than it was xx years ago but it is just fine. I do not long for the days when it ‘looked’ different. I am just thankful that I am there.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
Connie:  My body. Now that it is in its 5th decade it may break even more often! Our Vancouver 27 had very little breakage but we also sailed very simply on that voyage. Sails wore, mostly from the UV. And, we never pushed the limits on our sails except maybe sailing into Wellington NZ….

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it?

Tony: How much does it cost to cruise? 

I know this all depends on one's pocketbook but it would be interesting to see what people's responses are.
Having just left our our new (old) boat we're not sure what it's going to cost this time.  In the 1980's we could get by quite comfortably on $12,000 U.S. dollars/year.  This would pay for everything such as land travel, repairs and replacement to required equipment, food, communications etc etc. However, with a larger boat, 20 years added on we're not quite sure what to expect but hope we can do it on $24,000/year.