22 August 2011

10 Questions for Bika

bika6 Henrik Nor-Hansen and Nina Kristin Nilsen have been cruising since 2005 aboard Bike, a Contessa 26 hailing from Stavanger, Norway. Since 2005 they have cruised through Europe, Africa, Caribbean, South America, North America. The boat is currently in Mexico and they have an upcoming Pacific crossing. You can follow their journey on their blog or website or by email (sybikaAThotmail.com). Henrik & Nina say: We spend short stints on land in between, but have no plans of moving back ashore. The freedom of the cruising lifestyle is too addictive. Also, the questions are answered by Nina only.
Where was your favorite place to visit and why?
Oh oh. Uneasy question. Brought up as a good Norwegian social democrat, I have a hard time singling out favourites. As there's no escaping the Scandinavian mode of thought, as a cruiser I must give every place equal opportunity to charm me with music, stun me with scenery, I must look upon each stranger as an unknown friend. But I'll work around your trick question by picking out this one: Bika. Our boat is my favourite place to be. Because the scenery constantly changes, new friends are always to be had, I'm travelling the world with my best-friend-husband, and I wake up aboard every day feeling immensely free.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
The one-big-family aspect of cruising is both a blessing and a minor curse. It's wonderful being able to knock on any hull, for whatever reason, just because we are fellow cruisers. The strong sense of sharing among cruisers is what makes it possible to live wonderful lives at the edges of society. Money can't get you that lifesaving spare part in a remote anchorage, but a fellow cruiser can. Then there's the sense of belonging. None of your friends and family living on land can truly understand what it's like to live afloat. But other cruisers do.  And the minor curse? Because you find so many friends among fellow cruisers, you find less local friends.

bika3 Across a year, what do you spend the most money on while cruising?
Food and drink. A flight back home to visit family and friends. The boat. Generally in that order, but as we recently have done a major refit, the boat expenses have taken a temporary lead.

While cruising, what do you do about health & boat insurance, medical issues, banking and mail delivery?
We've had health and boat insurance while cruising in the US, but generally do without both. We have some buffer money for whatever emergency may arise, trust local medical services (for prevention we live a healthy lifestyle and carry our own remedies), we use internet banking and have most mail delivered electronically.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
Like the average cruising couple, I was the rookie while my husband had grown up sailing. To find out if cruising could be for us, we went on an eight week long sailing trip along the Norwegian coast. We went offshore to see if I'd freak out from loosing sight of land or heeling over, we navigated by lighted buoys through dark nights, we ran out of butter and bread. And loved it. Henrik had sailed since he was a baby, even crossing the North Sea and Skagerak, while I only had one year of mostly coastal cruising when we took off.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Skip the plans, skip the prearranged route (we had them, but soon dumped them).

bika7What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle?
Having to go back on land to earn a little money now and then. Office work, set hours, TGIF, all that.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
Our pressure cooker, as it saves time and gas, doesn't give off steam, has a lid that stays on in bumpy seas and cooks healthy food. Radio podcasts (Radiolab! This American Life! The Moth!) on our mp3-player, for night watches. The newly installed AIS receiver, for peace of mind, and because ships reply more if you use their name. The SSB receiver for weather offshore. The sailmaker's bag for offshore repairs. Our laptops, for almost everything.

bika1 What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We set a date, May 15th 2005, and stuck to it. Our decision was based on trust and enthusiasm. Trust in the seaworthiness of a small and affordable boat, and in us as a couple. And enthusiasm, as you can just do it, if you really really want to.

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

What gear or gadget do you cruise happily without? 

Ha ha, most! Inboard engines are not essential for small boats, you can charge your battery from solar power, and sail into harbours (as, being sailors on a sailboat, really makes sense). Chart plotters, well, paper charts never fail, and need no electricity. Fridge or freezer? We do like our grandparents did, we salt and dry fish and meat, top our butter off with brine, wax cheese and know that eggs stay almost forever. But we wish we had a dinghy we could sail, and a sat phone, just in case.