27 June 2011

10 Questions for African Innovation

ai3 Andreas Julseth and friends cruised from 2008 to 2010 aboard African Innovation, a FastCat 435 (43’) hailing from officially from Durban, South Africa but unofficially from Stavanger, Norway. He cruised through Europe, Caribbean, Central America, Galapagos, South Pacific and Australia. Readers can learn more through his website or through email (andreas@julseth.com).

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
More solar panels. I thought 430 watts would be enough, because I also had a Seabreeze wind gen, but boy was I wrong. Several times I contemplated sawing the pole off that held the wind gen and throwing the whole thing into the ocean, because it was such a disappointment. The solar panels on the other hand were silent, efficient and never let me down. It depends on where you sail, but in warm areas with lots of sun I would do without a wind gen (in a heart-beat) and add solar panels.

Once I got into the Pacific I wished I had an SSB to keep in touch with other boats over longer distances (using a sat phone becomes very expensive) and a larger dinghy with a more powerful outboard to increase my range from an anchorage, especially when thinking about exploring and fishing.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
Hardly ever. PPPPP = Proper Planning Prevents Piss-poor Performance ;-) I avoid the big storms by not sailing in hurricane and typhoon areas when they are in season. Before I set off on a passage, I check grib files and talk to other cruisers to find the most recent forecast and based on that I avoid getting stuck in bad weather. The only times I've been hammered are when squalls have hit. In the worst one, the winds picked up to 45 knots, rain reduced visibility so I couldn't even see the mast and I was almost knocked down. It only lasted about 30 minutes, so it wasn't too horrible. Experience teaches you how to avoid or at least predict squalls, so you can take measures early and either give them a wide berth, or reduce your sail area before they hit.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
That the World isn't as unspoiled as I'd like. It's almost impossible to sail away from it all and not have other boats around. I was also sad to see how poorly the environment is taken care of in many of the beautiful places I sailed to.

ai2 Tell me your favorite thing about your boat
The stability two hulls gives you. When monohulls are rocking and hating life in an anchorage, I barely feel any movement.

Is there something from your land life that you brought cruising and feel silly about bringing now?
Too much warm clothing. Once I hit Panama I didn't need them before I got to Australia.

Describe your first sailing experience
I bought a boat and took possession of it in Slovenia, a 3000 km away from where I lived. I loaded up a car and drove alone down there to take over the boat. My biggest problem was that I had never sailed before and it was a bit overwhelming to step on board the boat, not knowing how anything worked. In order to figure out how to set the sail, I had to spy on other boats with binoculars, because I couldn't figure out how the in-mast furling worked. Then once I got it out, I couldn't figure out how to get the rolling genoa in. After a few scary sea trials and a day circling outside the harbor, I cast off and sailed solo in the Med. for a year. It was a lot of fun, but I had a very steep learning curve.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Don't prepare yourself to death. It's better to just go for it, because no one ever leaves fully prepared and most of the preparations you do, you normally end up changing afterwards anyways.

ai1 In your experience, how much does cruising cost?
Always more than you plan and budget with. If I didn't do the occasional charter and had friends and crew sail with me who contributed I would be dead broke long ago.

Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited
We were anchored in Daniel's Bay on Nuka Hiva (In the Marquesas). The anchorage was off a beautiful beach and together with a couple of other boats, we wanted to do a BBQ there. There was a small cabin on the beach, which belonged to two local hunters. We asked them for permission to do the BBQ and invited them to partake. With their permission, we set up and did a very successful BBQ. The two hunters joined when we were well into our 3rd bottle of rum ;-) and they enjoyed our food, drinks and hospitality. They were so overwhelmed that the next night, they threw a BBQ for us. They hunted a wild pig and a goat in the morning, soaked it in milk and cooked it over the fire at night. That along with coconut soaked bread fruit made for some of the most delicious food I ate on the entire trip.
I have numerous other wonderful experiences with locals, but this was one of the top ones.

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

What would you do differently if you were doing the trip again?

Since I'm planning to do it again, this is something I'm definitely thinking about. I spent a lot of time in the Eastern Caribbean and to be honest I wish I would have moved on quicker. Western Caribbean has so much to offer and you won't be competing with quite as many boats for each anchorage. The real treat for me was the Pacific and to think that I only spent a season there feels like some irredeemable crime, that I have to remedy. You need at the very minimum 2 seasons to get from Panama to NZ or Oz, unless you plan to rush it. I might skip Galapagos next time, not because it's not worth it, it definitely is and it's fantastic, but because they are so strict as to where you can anchor, so in my view, you're actually better off flying out there and doing a 9 day cruise of the islands instead. Having said that, I might still stop by, just because it's a nice stopping point when you're sailing from Panama to French Polynesia. Once you get to the "South Pacific", you go from one amazing chain of islands to the next. I can't say that one is better or worse than the other, they are all unique and equally sensational. I just wish I had more time there to do it properly. When I do it again, I hope I can spend 3 seasons there, before I head on. We'll see ... First I need to save up money, buy a new boat ... etc. Most people ask me, "now that you've done it, do you have the sailing bug out of your system?" ... Not even close, now I can proceed into it knowing that there really isn't that much to worry about. You just have to get out there and do it.