14 March 2011

10 Questions for Celestial

celestial Scott, Donna, Nathan, and Celeste began cruising in 1978 on a 24 footer, moved up to a 29 footer in 1981 and ultimately circumnavigated from 1988 to 1996 on Bluejay, a J-36, departing and returning to Seattle, WA, USA. In 2009 they began cruising on Celestial a Tripp 47. You can read more about their current adventures on their blog or contact them via email (hansentripp47@gmail.com).

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
We have always believed in the phrase, “a fast passage is a safe passage”.  We have always had borderline racing boats.  A teak interior is beautiful but you are going to want to move without running an engine constantly, choose a boat that can sail.  I asked for two heads this time and a closed berth when friends could stay but that’s because we want those grown kids to come visit as well as other friends.

Can you think of a sailing tip (e.g., sail trim, sail combination) specific to offshore passages (e.g., related to swells)?
When you’re going downwind, it is important to use a spinnaker or whisker pole to stabilize the jib especially is a seaway.  We’re surprised how many cruisers don’t do it.  Even on a broad reach, a pole will give you better performance and more stability.

celestial3 Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed?
Yes, hugely.  Boats have become bigger and navigators are less competent.  The larger boats of today are far more complicated, expensive and difficult to maintain.  When we started cruising in ‘88, a 36 foot yacht was the middle of the fleet if not on the larger size.  Electronics were far more limited and yachtsmen had to be more diligent navigators.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?
Sails, and electrical connections are at the top of the list, for sure.  With our Tripp 47, we had to quit using our high tech Kevlar main and switch to a used Dacron delivery main for better dependability in offshore conditions.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Start with a smaller boat, sail often, make mistakes, learn and then decide on the vessel you want and do your best to make it seaworthy. We had a 24 footer in ’78 and sailed Canada extensively, a 29 footer in ’80 which we sailed down the coast to Oregon and to Hawaii and back.  We decided on the 36 footer in ’87 which we circumnavigated on and now the Tripp 47 in 2009 which we sailed from Portland, Maine through Panama to Seattle and now heading back to Mexico.

celestial7 Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited.
We have so many stories!  Numerous people even this trip have said, ‘how can I help you, I want to be of service.’  One lady in Hawaii saw us walking (we weren’t even hitchhiking) and said, ‘Where are you going?’  She took us to town, got out of the car and told us, ‘take it back to the pier when you’re done and leave the keys in it, I’ll pick them up the next day.  We came to the islands as normal folk who need staples, or a ride, who want to be friends and most people went out of their way to include you in their festivals, invite you to come to dinner or to the church potluck after we enjoyed their local service.

How has cruising affected your personal relationships?
We sailed for 8 years before we had kids but planned the circumnavigation with our 2 year old in mind.  I finally got to be a full-time mom and Scott, who loves to learn and teach others, encouraged Nathan and 6 years later, Celeste, to approach every situation in life as a learning experience.  When we tried to engage a nephew in thoughtful expressions of the world around him and theories on how it all worked, he came back with, “What, I’m not at school right now”, something our kids couldn’t understand.  Of course, today, they are both great well-educated adults!

celestia4l We still are in contact with sailors we meet in the 1990’s, especially those we spent more time with as we waited out hurricane seasons together or were on the same cruising track, the ‘milk run’, whom we met often with. Being ‘in the same boat’ meant a lot to cruisers who wanted to help each other, learn from each other, etc.  We could relate totally with each other.

What is your biggest lesson learned?
The biggest lesson is that all of life is about learning and you keep at it until you’re satisfied.  There are so many small things when you start out, you ask so many small questions, like how things work, what do you do when, where can you anchor, etc. but we had no mentors to ask and had to research the problems, go out and try it, have trial and error.  Go to the boat show, join a cruising club but in the end, just do it.

“It depends” comes up often when people ask us questions because many times, there are no hard and fast answers, just try it and see.

celestia6l What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
Poverty leads to crime.  We trusted many islanders with our property and kids.  The poorest people we met were some of the most hospitable and honest. 

Other poor countries are dangerous and America is safe.  Most of those countries were safer than being in our urban cities back home.  We did see pirates and crime but it was few and far apart.  Even Mexico today is still a safe place, during the day and in the quieter ports.

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

What role does religion play in cruising?

Cruising friends that we knew, were often amazed at all the people we got to know and places we got to go as we came to a new place.  We’d say we had family in every port and we meant the Christian family we had met in churches along the way, enjoyed and allowed them to partake in our life.  Our son wanted to go to a week church camp so we took our one year old daughter and we were camp counselors for the week.  A Christian Samoan needed materials delivered to an island 200 miles away and we took a huge boatload but they celebrated ‘Bluejay day’ the day we arrived.  Another church needed materials delivered from American Samoa to Western Samoa and so we did that, praying the cockroaches would leave with the boxes and not decide to stay.  Jesus was our way of life at home, and we were happy to see we could enjoy Him and help His kingdom along the way.