30 May 2011

10 Questions for Barbara Marrett

marrett Barbara Marrett cruised from 1986 to 1990 and has conducted sail training since 1994. Based in Friday Harbor, WA, USA, her vessels have included a 31’ Hallberg Rassy Monson Sloop, 42’ Hallberg-Rassy Ketch, 65’ Sparkman Stephens Sloop,  and a 45’ Cavalier Sloop. Her cruising days were in the South Pacific but she is now skippering vacation and learn trips in the San Juan Islands. She can be reached by email (bmarrett@rockisland.com) and says: I teach Vacation and Learn cruises in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, aboard a comfortable 45’ Cavalier sloop through Orange Coast College (949-645-9412). I am a contributing editor for Cruising World Magazine and Port Commissioner.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
That it would be difficult to re-enter the materialistic and fast paced American culture after cruising to the exotic islands and remote villages of the North and South Pacific. I found it refreshing to be among cruisers from other countries who had an adventurous spirit one doesn’t find among most folks ashore. Remote cultures that are welcoming and family-oriented, were a joy to get to know.
I wish I’d been told it would be difficult to find work outside the sailing world for someone who had gotten used to living in a world without walls.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?
Have an area of the boat that is yours, keep what you want there and don’t let your spouse mess with it. Bring a few items that have emotional significance for you.

Connecting with other women was something I took for granted on land. Cruising, I had to make a point to share time with women. When I did, I realized the validation and depth of sharing I was missing.
Take mini vacations from each other. I flew home alone for a family reunion – an extravagance. To be among family without spouse pressure and to take a break from the boat was truly a vacation. Don’t lose track of who you are. Tell yourself, “I am the master of my ship, the captain of my destiny.”

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
A boat is like a magic carpet to exotic places. I love to travel and appreciate the simplicity of living aboard (an uncomplicated easy to maintain boat). Being able to bring your home with you as you travel and share it with others can’t be beat. Having said that, I definitely am more into the cruising lifestyle than sailing for sailing sake.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
I didn’t want to jump ship after my first passage. I was like a bird let out of a cage…wanting to fly further and freer.

In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
I am someone who gains satisfaction from accomplishment. I found it hard to not feel guilty about just being instead of doing. I got over this by writing articles for sailing magazines…which eventually became a cruising book: Mahina Tiare Pacific Passages. Using my graphics background, I self published the book and sold 8,000 copies. This was tremendously satisfying.

What did you find most exciting about your cruising life?
Feeling really alive and aware of my surroundings, all my senses were engaged in managing the boat, in meeting new people, trying new foods, seeing everything from the giant statues of Easter Island to the volcanoes of Vanuatu.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
A boat with solid fiberglass construction below the waterline, built for rugged offshore sailing, easily steered by hand or wind vane; sails that are easily managed by the weakest person on board. I prefer hank on sails for offshore. Ketch rigs are great because the sail area is broken up and the sails are easier to manage than on a similar sized sloop. A good windlass and sturdy dodger are a must. For offshore, a 36-40 boat is good for two people. Much bigger and it gets harder to handle, more costly and more effort to maintain. Much smaller, and the passage will seem rougher and there is less space for everything!

Share a piece of cruising etiquette
When in a bay with only one other boat, don’t anchor next to them.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear?
Not being able to socialize or find food in remote places.

And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?
Missing the validation you received from your former career.

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

Is cruising worth it? Absolutely!