20 June 2011

10 Questions for Low Key

low key Captain Woody and crew (Dena onboard CA to and around Australia, Tom Tahiti, Keith and Joanie Fiji, Donna South Atlantic, Jay Brazil to French Guiana, Gretchen and Rick Trinidad to ABC's, Angela ABC's to San Blas, Phil through canal, Mike Panama to Costa Rica, Terry Costa Rica) crewed on cruising boats from 1994 to 1996, began skippering in Mexico and Canada in 2002 and circumnavigated in his own boat (Low Key, a Cal 33 hailing from Manhattan Beach, CA, USA) from 2003 to 2005. He currently does deliveries. On his circumnavigation he left California and went over Australia, under Africa, through the Panama Canal and back to California. Captain Woody writes a regular column for Latitudes & Attitudes magazine. You can read articles and learn about his book on his website.

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?
I learned early on that the most boats are inherently safe.  In other words, while the human passengers may be terrified during rough conditions, the boat is completely at ease.  While crossing the Indian Ocean on my coastal cruiser we had hill sized waves roll over us, Low Key and I, again and again.  The first time it happened, at night of course, I was concerned.  During the day I watched it happen again and again.  The deck and house would completely disappear under the wave. Low Key would emerge slowly, shake off the water and carry on. Structurally, Low Key seemed completely unaffected.

New cruisers concern themselves with a lot of things, most are non issues or cannot be controlled.  Something that I think they do not concern themselves with enough is boat prep.  When heading to sea everything should be secured below and nothing should be on deck. Your boat should be able to lean 90 degrees with nothing falling onto the floor.  That's for a normal downwind easy ocean crossing.  If you are travelling in the wrong season, rounding the horn or cruising high latitudes the boat should be prepped for 180 degree roll.  That's strapped batteries and oven and floor boards that lock.

What do you find most exciting about your cruising life?
The Nature mostly.  From the closeness to animals to the awesomeness ;) of the ocean itself, grinding and seething in it's day to day job of creating global weather.  Waterfalls, ecosystems, villagers and the aerodynamics and challenge involved in getting around the world on 160 gallons of diesel.  The freedom to do whatever you want and to go where you please.

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
We get this question at the magazine a lot.  Men tend to take their new to sailing women out in rough conditions to prove their ability to handle themselves and the boat (or disprove same).  We suggest a 'sail' across the bay on a flat windless day to a restaurant or calm bay anchor, BBQ and overnighter.  Get her excited about pure beauty of cruising first.  At sea break-in should occur later and at a gradual pace.
I should note that it's not always the man's plan.  We had a couple partner defections on fellow cruising boats in Bora Bora.  In both cases it was the man that didn't take to cruising and headed off home leaving the women to their bliss.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time?
I don't make a secret of it.  I never cared for sailing more than other sports.  I was in it to see cool landfalls.  I didn't achieve a more heightened admiration for being at sea until I started singlehanding longer legs.  When it was just me and the boat and the sea and it's creatures ... alone at last.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
Pirates for one.  There are some tiny areas on the planet that real piracy occurs.  Smart cruisers avoid them, same as they avoid hurricane season.  Don't go there and never worry about it.  Note that if you like cruising near large cities you raise your risk of being robbed, usually when you're not onboard.

Describe a perfect cruising moment that will make cruisers-to-be drool with anticipation
Diving off the stern in any of those warm tropical islands with perfect water and white sand.
In the water feeding the rays off Moorea comes to mind.  So friendly they swam up your body.
Finally at anchor after any long bumpy passage, enjoying arrival coldies in our deck chairs forward, admiring some beautiful island, from calm flat beautiful water.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?
Travelling in a pack is safer.  Besides the possibility of night collisions, groups tend to make bad weather and routing decisions based on the needs of the group.  Real pirates would prefer to collect from 20 boats instead of one small one.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
It was always a loose plan, in some form, since childhood.  But it doesn't get real until you make a reasonably firm departure date, even if it's years away.  I wanted to travel and figured a boat would give me more flexibility.  Over the years I acquired a usable boat, the skills via crewing, the money via skippering and finally a partner to set the date with.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Read everything (don't forget Cruising Low Key ;).  Get a general feel and try not to take any one source as law.  Do a sailing leg on another boat.  Maybe do a charter.  You want to figure out what your needs are and especially what you can live without.  If your funds are limited or you value your free time, don't put too much gear onboard. Every piece comes with maintenance.  Low Key was very simple.  We spent more time at waterfalls and hiking and hanging out with locals than our fellow cruisers.  And we kept a more flexible schedule as I only once waited for a part to come in (mainsail).

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

I think you were very thorough.

People often think things will be different when they head out to cruise.  Usually we bring our shore anxieties with us.  Practice a mellow personality, easygoing-ness while still ashore as part of your voyage prep.  The sea will teach you that you really have no controlover the big picture.  It's a beautiful thing to realize.  Getting stressed is a waste of time.  Everything works out, trust the process.

Whether you're home or out there, please leave a clean wake.