21 March 2011

10 Questions for Sohcahtoa

Casey, Jeff and Matt cruised from 2005 to 2007 aboard Sohcahtoa, a LaFitte 44 hailing from Seattle, WA, USA. They completed a two year circumnavigation by way of the Cape of Good Hope and through the Panama Canal stopping in Mexico, French Polynesia (Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands), The Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Australia, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Mascarene Islands (Rodrigues and Mauritius), Republic of South Africa, St Helena, Ascension Island, Brazil, Bonaire, Panama and Costa Rica.  You can learn more about their cruise on their website. Casey says: “On Nov. 20th I married Majella van Hoof, an amazing Australian gal whom I met while we were cruising in Tonga in 2006. She isn't mentioned in the Sohcahtoa blog because I was superstitious that doing so might jinx the relationship. We're currently living in the Seattle area but were married in Australia. Matt and Jeff were both in the wedding.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
To gain offshore experience we headed to the west side of Vancouver Island one weekend a few months before we had planned to start our cruise. By the time we got there, it was nearly dead calm. We bobbed around for a couple hours and went home. Our next experience was the passage from Neah Bay, Washington to San Diego.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
I loved how welcoming people from the countries we visited were. We met people who drove us around on tours, welcomed us into their homes and gave us fresh fruit and vegetables. I doubt we would have had the same reception stepping off a airplane or big cruise ship. I think it's a combination of starting out with an interesting story (and tan), feeling more comfortable because you're essentially arriving in your house and often showing up to smaller areas that might not get as much tourist attention.

Similarly, there's a great camaraderie among fellow cruisers. Cruisers are often eager to lend a hand to or share a bit of useful knowledge with a fellow cruiser. This applies to people actively cruising. Cruisers who hunker down in one area for a few seasons can lose that. They can start cliques and/or feuds with the other cruisers there. Maybe those people shouldn't be considered cruisers but rather live a boards in a foreign country. I guess that's more of imperfection in the territory than something I dislike about the culture. 
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
I'm not sure if we read or heard about this anywhere but we were all under the impression that we'd have all kinds of time to learn or develop new skills on long passages. I did learn more about fishing, sail trim, general boat maintenance and destructive powers of salt and repetitive motion but I also slept next to two guitars for two years and still don't know a single chord. Passages were much more conducive to reading than anything else.

Something I didn't realize until I started cruising, mayonnaise doesn't require refrigeration. As long as you don't contaminate it with any other food, use a squeeze bottle, it will keep for a long time.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
Hands down, my favorite piece of equipment was Earl, our Monitor wind vane. It steered Sohcahtoa for a majority of the trip. Next, after replacing the membrane, our reverse osmosis water-maker worked like a charm the entire trip. It meant one less thing to worry about each time we stopped.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
Wow, there were so many. So many new friends met and drinks shared. In Mexico we'd buy fish from the local fisherman and enjoy tuna sashimi and ceviche with a few friends we'd met along the way. In Tonga we sailed to a small, uninhabited island with a couple other boats we'd met in Bora Bora and Rarotonga. We had a beautiful white sand beach to ourselves and spent the day fishing, kite surfing, snorkeling the nearby coral heads and relaxing in the sun. That evening we made mahi mahi tacos and cooked bananas in a camp fire for dessert. People can fly in to exotic locales for fishing or diving or walking sandy beaches but you can't buy your way into the friendships made while in a cruising adventure. Did I mention that I met my wife while cruising in Tonga as well? That was pretty great. 

What do you think is a common cruising myth
That your gear will save you. There are many people out there perpetually outfitting for a cruise. They just need to upgrade one more piece of gear. Of course, you need to be prepared and you should know your boat inside and out but you don't need the latest and greatest of everything. Know your boat and have a contingency plan for when things break. If you're doing any kind of long term cruising, things will eventually wear out or break, no matter how new. 

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We started planning our trip shortly after graduating from college so, while most of my friends were buying new cars and houses, I drove the same crappy pickup I'd had for years to save money. We also took sailing lessons and bought a Catalina 30 to practice sailing on. One of the most important things we did was to pick a time frame and stick to it. We had several unfinished projects when the time came but boat was sound. Leaving behind the "security" of a good job was one of the scariest, most thrilling and rewarding parts of the entire trip.

Is there anywhere you sailed to that was a disappointment?
It wasn't necessarily disappointing but I expected Mauritius to be more remote or less inhabited. I seemed so far away to me, I didn't expect it to be such a popular vacation destination for everyone in that hemisphere. I was mistaken for a Russian there a couple times so it was more remote than say Hawaii but I didn't expect all the big resorts.

What is your biggest lesson learned?
The biggest lesson I learned was the good friendships can take a serious beating and eventually come out stronger.

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

What piece of gear do you wish you had?

It would have been great to have had a small, well insulated freezer. Something that wouldn't draw too much power but could freeze a bit of meat.