08 August 2011

10 Questions for Seayanika

seayanika4 Katriana Vader cruised from 2004 until 2006 aboard Seayanika, a custom 49-ft Bluewater Pilothouse Cutter hailing from Vista, CA, USA. From California, Seayanika traveled through Baja and mainland Mexico and then through the South Pacific (Marquesas, Tuamotus, Society Islands, Cook Islands, Nuie, Tonga & Fiji). She left California with the Baja Ha Ha in 2004 with a party crew of four and had several other crew members join her at different stages of her cruising. Readers can learn more about their voyage on their website or through email (info@seayanika.com).

Katriana says: I have traveled my entire life from the time I was 17 years old, have visited over 100 countries and speak six languages.  My daughter Lanika (whom the boat is named after as in “Sea Ya Nika”) traveled with me for ten years between the ages of 3-13.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
I suppose what I was most surprised about was how tiring and boring the passages were. I had this idea in my head that the longer crossings were going to be endless days of contemplating life, looking at sea life and birds and maybe looking for some wind. Aside from the paltry sightings of marine life, the occasional flying fish and squid that landed on deck, and the messy but amazing boobies (bird), the 23 days from Mexico to the Marquesas were mostly devoid of punctuation marks. Also, I was expecting nice even rolling waves during the majority of the passage, maybe somewhere between 3-15 footers. Instead of a relaxing up and down movement on the swells we encountered confused, washing machine seas the entire passage. Even in the ITCZ! The constant erratic movement of the boat (for nearly 600 straight hours) required continual bracing, I swear, even during sleep. The upside is that upon arriving in the Marquesas, although worn out from all the involuntary isometrics, I was in the best muscular shape I had been in a long time. Wind was never an issue…it was constant.

seayanika5 When you are offshore, what keeps you awake at night (that is, what worries you most)?
The biggest worry of course is to make sure I STAY offshore and off reefs. I mostly experienced this fear when nearing Fiji as I had been warned that there were uncharted reefs and I needed to keep a sharp eye out. Unfortunately, I am pretty night blind so it wasn’t an easy thing to do. In the six months Seayanika was in Fiji, all the “planned” trips were during daylight hours. The “unplanned” ones were mostly emergency moves due to wind shifts and lee shores.

Is there something from your land life that you brought cruising and feel silly about bringing now?
Well…my bread maker. I didn’t use it, not even once. We found it more enriching and calming while on the passages to prepare the bread ourselves than to turn on the generator to power up for a high AC load. Plus it helped fill in time.

seayanika3 Describe a positive experience you have had with local people somewhere you have visited.
There were so many wonderful people and experiences it’s hard to pick out just one. However, the locals on Palmerston Atoll are well known for their hospitality. They literally adopt you when you arrive; feed you lunch every day, and share their way of life without asking anything in return. When Seayanika was visiting, we were accompanied by friends on three other cruising boats, and we did our best to reciprocate. Sam Peterson on Moana worked on the island’s computers, someone else provided mechanical assistance, and everyone dug into their larders to help out with the island’s shortages, butter and toilet paper. I had also brought a lot of baby clothes along, and since there was a baby girl on the island I was able to find a home for some of them. The grandmother, (oh how I wish I could remember her name) was so thankful that she made me a purse out of a coconut and sent it along for me with Moana, who stayed an extra day. While on Palmerston we were all treated to a "sports" party in our honor by the 65 inhabitants. There was food and drink, games and contests…ping pong, darts and they even played Euchre! Who would have thought that particular card game would be popular in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Built our own boat. To insure safety, comfort and reliability we felt it was our best option. It took four years of back-breaking labor to build, but the end result was worth it. Every safety feature, every redundant system, every luxury that I felt I couldn’t live without (ice maker, bow thruster, water maker, washer/dryer, drawer refrigeration), I got it all without having to make compromises. Safety was paramount, and by building the boat ourselves we knew it was solid and safe, and where absolutely every piece of equipment was located, why, and where to troubleshoot when problems arose.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
I read a lot of books about cruising before setting off on this adventure and found most everything to be spot on. I didn’t really have any illusions that it would always be easy or idyllic, but at times it certainly was. The view was ALWAYS great! I’ve traveled internationally almost my whole life, so the only aspect I had to adapt to was the “cruising life”.

seayanika2 Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?
Without a doubt that would be the Tuamotus. The “Dangerous Archipelago”, made up of all those beautiful, tropical atolls, is my personal ideal when thinking about the tropics. Pristine white sand islands, swaying palms, coral reefs, tons of fish and shells….who wouldn’t love it. Unfortunately, much of the time the weather is problematic for cruisers with rainstorms, squalls and dramatic wind shifts. Being anchored in shallow lagoons with little or no protection from the winds can be challenging. After less than one month visiting only three atolls I decided it was best to leave. But I really, really, really wanted to see more.

seayanika1Tell me your favorite thing about your boat.
I love that my boat is open and light, but still has plenty of places to hang onto while navigating around inside. I love that she is so solidly built without being unnecessarily heavy, and that she comfortably and safely took me cruising around Mexico and the South Pacific. On rough, cold or rainy days I love, love, love my pilothouse.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
When I’m trying to dock is tight spaces I love my bow thruster. It is surprisingly useful when anchoring and even saved me the embarrassment of getting caught in irons a couple of times. At hot, remote anchorages, there’s nothing better that having an icy cocktail that clinks complements of the ice maker. The ice maker was also an excellent redundant system for the refrigerator and freezer, when the compressor developed issues in Tahiti. The water maker worked flawlessly and provided an abundant source of the purest, softest water. I enjoyed being able to provide friends with endless hot showers after a passage. I only found the trash compactor useful on the long passages, it now goes mostly unused. And I highly recommend a memory foam mattress. Much better than being tossed around on a spring mattress in rough seas.

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

Would you do it again?

And my answer to that would be both yes and no. I would not do another crossing or passage of more than a few days. It was always a bit of a 'crap shoot' when you were looking for a weather window for more than that period of time. Uncertain weather was always my fear, not so much because of safety issues, but because of comfort. I guess you could call me a fair-weather sailor. The “yes” portion of the answer is for the island hopping within an archipelago or island chain, the camaraderie among cruisers and the wonderful local people you meet. Everyday of cruising is different, and most of it is good.