02 May 2011

10 Questions for Sarana

sarana1 Eric & Sherrell have been cruising since 2003 aboard Sarana, a Pacific Seacraft / Mariah 31hailing from Seattle, WA, USA. Over that time they have traveled through Alaska, Canada, from the US down to Ecuador and everywhere in between. You can read more about their journey on their website. They say: We write electronic cruising guides for Central America that covers dozens of areas that have been completely unexplored by previous guide books.  Our Central American guide books are here and we have some free guides including the first guide ever written to Pacific Colombia. Also we forgot to mention our two cats (Jezebel and Jordan) as part of the crew...but they don't really crew very much.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear? And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should?
We were at first worried about finding fresh food and water when we left developed areas for more remote locations.  Even if you don't have refrigeration or a watermaker (like us) you'll always find at least basic produce and fresh purified water.  And we've been surprised how much water we can catch during a rainstorm.  Naturally you'll need to practice conserving water use if you don't have a watermaker to extend your range.  We average 1 gallon per day per person.

Also we worried about breaking something important.  As it turns out things always break.  Worrying about it doesn't help.  We try to keep everything as simple as possible so that we can make our replacements and keep going.  There are a lot of talented mechanics and machine shops out there to help you in a pinch.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Don't read all those sea disaster books.  They scare you more than help you.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
On a small boat this isn't usually a problem.  You don't have much space for “extra” stuff.  But if we weren't sure about something we would try to bring it as you can easily trade or sell it to other people along the way.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?
Common reasons the people we know who quit:
1. Don't like cruising.  It can be laborious, uncomfortable and lacking stimulation provided by the rat-race.
2. Need money.  Big expensive boats, poor budgeting, expensive equipment failures, too much partying, providing for kids are some of the reasons cruises have a limited duration.
3. Family needs.  Aging parents who need care.  Pull of new grand children draw grandparents home.
4. Ego collapse.  The work environment provided immediate feedback for your work.  After decades of work=rewards it can be difficult to adapt to work=nothing.  Whether people liked their jobs or not, the sudden
lack of any type of acknowledgment (money) can be difficult.  Many people return to their careers.
5. Medical problems.  Sometimes people have physical issues that develop during their travels and they can no longer cruise.

We were shocked to discover that in this age of jet travel few people live on their boat year round.  The majority of people we know fly “home” once a year.  Perhaps this helps relieve some of problems that
has caused others to quit.  There are a lot of cruisers that only live on their boats for part of the year.

In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Training our family that we can not always be available took many months if not years.  The internet has helped make us more available however this is still an on-going problem.
Sadly we lost a few friends because they were unwilling to accept our new lifestyle whether through lack of understanding or envy or whatever.  They quickly drifted away.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
Eric:  I started off racing.  So I love sailing especially in a competitive fashion.  However I wouldn't want to just sail round and round like Benard Motissier.  I love going new places, learning new languages, and experiencing different cultures.  In a way I'm a xenophile.  I am much less interested to go someplace I've been than to go somewhere new.

Sherrell:  I love traveling and experiencing new cultures especially through the small local villages that I would otherwise never experience without a sailboat.  Sailing between these places is an added bonus.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
Sherrell:  I like the independent minded and spirited individuals who make up this culture and the unique things they bring to my life's experience.  What I don't like about the cruising culture is in large cruising populations such as in Mexico there tends to be cliques with group activities.  They tend to create an insular world and don't mix with locals or learn the language beyond “Una mas cerveza por favor.”

Eric:  There are a lot of knowledgeable people who are willing to help out if you are stuck on a problem.  The downside is there are a lot of knowledgeable people who are too willing to help out if you are stuck
on a problem.

sarana2 What has been the most affordable area to cruise and the most expensive? What was affordable or expensive about each area?
We've been able to stick to our budget even in the USA, but you have to make sacrifices like not eating out or staying in marinas.  This goes true for other countries too.  You can spend lots of money even in the cheapest countries.  A better strategy for controlling your budget is to just live within your means and spoil yourself once in a while.  Saying that, we have found all of Latin America in general to be inexpensive with some variations between countries.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds?
We haven't traded anything other than technical skills for services. However there are some very remote villages where gasoline, d-batteries, school supplies and some clothing are appreciated more than currency.  These places are very few as most of Latin America is fairly well industrialized.

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

EricWhat is one piece of advice you have to people who want to go cruising?

Stop making to-do lists.  Go use your boat as if you are cruising.  Use the crap out of it.  Your priorities will do a 180 degree flip as you find more important things to worry about than the color of your sail covers.  Practice staying on a budget, anchoring out, repairing everything yourself, using your alternative energy, using your navigation gear, your running rigging and all the little things of living on a boat that you can't do while sitting at a dock. Forget the books, websites, forums, etc. and get some personal time with your boat.  It will do a world of good to help you filter out the noise and find the important things in your life – even if that answer is that you don't like cruising.