06 June 2011

10 Questions for Balvenie

at anchor in St Tropez Mark and Amanda have been cruising since 2004 aboard Balvenie, a Townson 47ft hailing from Auckland, New Zealand. They have traveled through the South Pacific, Tasmania, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Asia, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, & the Mediterranean. You can read more about them on their blogs (Yacht Balvenie, Balvenie Cruising Info) or contact them by email (yachtbalvenie@gmail.com).

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
While in the Med we have met several males sailing with other male friends while their wives stay at home to "look after the furniture"!   Sailing, especially long term cruising definitely seems to be a male dream more than a female one and I (Amanda) have tried to convince a few wives along the way that it really is a great way of life. But it is so dependant on the person, and what sort of person they are.  If they have always wanted to travel, love the outdoors and don't have tight family ties then even if they don't like sailing there is hope.  If they love regular family get togethers, strolling through the shops every week for the latest fashion bargains and having their holidays in 5 star hotels - well no hope at all.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette
We left New Zealand and went straight to Fiji.  After recovering from the trip we started cruising the islands and in our first anchorage there was only us and a Canadian boat.  They invited us over for sundowners, so we turned up at the agreed time.  And we learnt our first piece of cruising etiquette.  BYO Drinks!! And for those of you unfamiliar with BYO it is BRING YOUR OWN.  This is particularly prevalent in places like the Pacific, Asia, Red Sea (we are still in Med so can't comment for further on).  The reason being is that in all of these places it is difficult to get supplies so you buy for your own needs because you know how much you drink, it works well and everyone does it.  We have, however, had some people quite offended in the Med when we have turned up with our own drinks, however when we explain why they all think it's a great idea.  In the "boonies" we always take some nibbles over too, its common practice.   

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
Mark had been yacht racing for a few years so had plenty of inshore experience.  He got a crew place onboard a yacht doing the Auckland-Noumea race and also helped a friend bring his yacht back from Fiji to Auckland one year, and did any off shore races he could.  When we bought Balvenie she was in Picton at the top of the South Island so we had a 4 day trip to get her back to Auckland which was my (Amanda’s) first off shore.  We had 3 male friends onboard with us for this trip, and 2 more onboard for our Auckland - Fiji passage. 

What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle?
Mark - Staying positive.  Of course it seems we have the most idyllic lifestyle and we do, BUT of course there are days when everything goes wrong, it's never just one little thing it will be an accumulation and often it may go on for days, normally not major things but enough small incidents often can be worse.  Then if you need things from ashore you are always in a foreign place, can't read the signs/labels, don't have a car to get to where you need to, can't find anyone who speaks English to help ....... 

Which spares do you wish you had more of? Less of?
When we left New Zealand we had spare oil filters and oil for the next oil change and that was about it.  Now we have a spare of nearly everything that moves and those that don't too!!  We have spent so much time in places that you just can't go ashore to a chandlery or even a hardware store that we are pretty much self sufficient now.  We have helped out other cruisers too by loaning spares when they have needed them, and we have been helped by others.

In your experience, how much does cruising cost?
The million dollar question!!  When we were preparing we were desperately trying to get this answer but so many people don't seem to keep tabs.  Then we were told by someone that you will spend what you can afford and this was very relevant, if you can't afford to go out for dinner, you don't.  If you can't afford much, well you share a pizza with a beer.  If you can afford it you have the lobster with a good bottle of wine.  I (Amanda) have kept exact records (yes, I'm one of these people with a notebook that logs everything - sad but true!!)  On our blog in the Labels there is one for "Cost of Cruising" which gives a breakdown of our last three cruising seasons.  Since we started, this is how it has been - these figures are in New Zealand Dollars and have been averaged out for a per week amount.
  • 2004 .... From NZ to Fiji Vanuatu, Australia, Tasmania just 34 weeks  $423  this did not include fully stocking the boat before we left NZ and it was jam packed full
  • 2005 .... Australia out to Papua New Guinea and back to Australia    $990
  • 2006 .... Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand    $767
  • 2007 .... Thailand, Malaysia   $1,128
  • 2008 .... Andamans, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece  $661
  • 2009 .... Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, Malta    $921
  • 2010 .... Malta, Italy, France, Monaco, Spain    $1,149
NOTE.... no insurance is included in any of the above.  However everything else is in there, including trips home to New Zealand and England and also all our living expenses while NOT on the boat.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
balvenie2 It was recommended to us by our good friend George on Moonshadow that we should take Balvenie up to Fiji for the season, decide what we needed to change then go back to NZ and implement any changes we wanted to make.  In principal this is excellent advice but in practice for us it didn't fit with our plans to circumnavigate and saying goodbye once is hard enough!  So we would say just try and spend as much time at anchor on your boat before you leave your home port, that is very different to being onboard in the marina.  Learn about as many of the systems you have as possible, do all the courses that your local coastguard offers, speed read every book and relevant website you can find and store all those relevant pieces of info away, either in your brain or a folder.  You will never ever be ready to go, so just do as much as you can, then let the lines go.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
Mark - Our two autopilots, they just do their job, tirelessly hour after hour, no coffee or dinner breaks, never question my decisions

Amanda - My Sailrite Sewing Machine.  It has saved us thousands of dollars in canvas replacements/repairs. It is also great to be able to help out others using it as I don't have many other skills to share.  Our stash of books, in particular our Lonely Planets.  It is great to have them in advance so you can read up about the places you are going and be well informed.  WIFI Aerial when we left you couldn't get internet on the boat, now we get pretty grumpy if we can't.  We have a great aerial that we bought from a cruiser friend when in Malaysia and it has served us very well along the way picking up free signals at anchor often a far way off.  Don't leave home without one.

What is something that you looked forward to about cruising when you were dreaming, that is as good or even better than imagined?
For us the opportunity to travel to so many different places that many people can not reach and then to be able to stay and experience these places from the comfort of our own floating home is priceless

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

What is the best part of this lifestyle?

The people.  We are part of a huge cruising community full of the most wonderful people from all walks of life and all countries.  We all have a common interest and are out here bobbing around, sharing our worries about the weather, the anchorages, the political state of the  countries we want to visit, whether to go east, west, north or south, or should we just stay another day or year.  We are a mobile community, spanning the globe and we are a community full of amazing people.  We have forged friendships we would have never have done at home - and that has made it all worthwhile.