16 May 2011

10 Questions for Kavenga

kav2 Steve & Kay Van Slyke cruised from 1990-1993 and 2004-2006 aboard Kavenga a Lord Nelson 41, cutter hailing from Gig Harbor, WA, USA. From 1990-1993, they traveled around the Pacific Rim -- from Puget Sound, harbor hopping to Mexico, and then on to French Polynesia, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomons, Pohnpei, Truk/Chuuk, Guam, Japan and across the North Pacific to Vancouver Island.  They left for Mexico again in 2004. You can read more about them on their website. They say: “Steve is the author of “Sex, Lies & Spinnakers” a murder mystery wrapped in a sea adventure available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.  He was the navigation officer aboard a US Navy ammunition ship in combat areas of the South China Sea during the Vietnam War.  He taught celestial navigation in community college and still tutors cruisers passing through Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  Kay had never sailed before meeting and marrying Steve.  She learned to cruise during the seven years they owned Kavenga prior to heading south.  She was a member of Tacoma Women’s Sailing Club, which was a big help in raising her skills and confidence. Kay’s first love is horses and it was difficult for her to leave her quarter horse behind. His stable board was the most unusual line item in our cruising budget.  Fortunately she was able to do a little riding every now and then along the way, for example in Mexico and New Zealand.  Together Steve & Kay are the Seven Seas Cruising Station hosts for Banderas Bay, Mexico, which includes Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.  They offer a free paper chart lending library containing charts for virtually all of the Pacific and Caribbean areas.  Steve is one of the net controllers for the daily VHF radio net in Banderas Bay.”

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
It’s not necessary to carry three years worth of TP and paper towels.

kav3What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear?
Don’t stress over the Marquesas passage.  Of all the long ocean passages we have done it was the most pleasant even though the ITCZ was wider than normal.  The weather is warm, the seas (relatively speaking) are small, the winds usually reliable.

And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?
What they’ll do if the GPS system (not their units--the whole system) goes down while they’re making a passage.  Do they know celestial?  Do they have paper charts as back ups?  GPS can go down as a result of solar flares, wars, etc, and of course a lightning strike can take out all of your electronics. 

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?
#1 Starting too late in life and discovering their bodies and spirits are not up to the challenges the sea can throw at them.
#2 Crew issues.  Boats at sea are crucibles.  If you barely get along at the dock, things won’t get better at sea, guaranteed.

In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Since we both left stressful jobs the transition was far from difficult.  Layers of stress peeled away like layers of clothing as we sailed into the warmth of the tropics.  For Kay, leaving her elderly mother and her beloved horse was difficult. 

kav1What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
#1 Folding bikes, because they allowed us to get our errands done quicker and to see much more of the places we worked so hard to get to.  With a cart towed behind Steve’s bike we could haul 3 jerry cans of diesel, or 2 propane tanks, or 6 bags of groceries.  At Palikulo Bay, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu it was 8 miles via gravel road to the nearest grocery store and no regular transportation.  #2 Ham/SSB radio because it allowed us to stay in touch with friends and family, as well as get weather and port information.  #3 TV and a huge stock of movies.   #4 steering vane & autopilot (we barely steered 1% of the time).  #5 electric anchor windlass.

Across a year, what do you spend the most money on while cruising?
Food and boat maintenance.

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?
Go as soon as you can.  The longer you wait the harder it becomes.  Like us, take a piece of your retirement “out of the middle” and then return to the workplace.  In other words, try to go while still in your 30s or 40s.  If you’re already in your 50s, 60s or beyond, get in shape--everything takes more energy at sea.

How did you recommend securing your vessel while going ashore? And your dinghy?
In most of the Pacific Ocean your boat is relatively safe.  You will likely hear about places that are having problems via the cruiser grapevine as you go.  For example, outboard theft is currently a particular problem in San Blas, Mexico.  If we are in an area where we are concerned about the dinghy we either haul it aboard at night, or at least out of the water, alongside.  Of course you have to use common sense.  The only thing we had stolen anywhere in the Pacific was a pair of binoculars that we left on deck while anchored off a large city with a lot of fishing boat traffic.  Dumb.  Most of the time we did not lock up the boat unless we were going to be gone overnight or not return until after dark.  Again, the best rule is to check with the other boats that arrived ahead of you.

kav4 What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We set a five-year goal (that took seven years) with specific financial goals as well as a list of projects to be completed that included specific kinds of training needed; e.g., medical, diving, radio, etc.  Having a specific goal causes you to sacrifice other wants and needs in order to meet your goal and it spurs you on as you see yourself getting closer to it.

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

What pieces of gear did you buy that turned out not to be necessary? 

Watermaker.  They may be nice to have in dry countries like Mexico, but even in Mexico good water is now available.  Watermakers are expensive, finicky, and require lots of TLC.  You can buy a heck of a lot of water for $3,000 and not be spending your time changing filters, pickling membranes, and waiting in port for that critical part to arrive.  Water catching is easy in the Pacific.  After our water maker failed en route to the Marquesas, we started catching water and never came close to having empty tanks for the next two years.  We later sold the watermaker and have not replaced it.