05 September 2011

10 Questions for Nuage

Nuage Nuage is a Philbrooks Fast Passage 39 cutter rigged hailing from Vancouver, Canada. Nuage left Vancouver in 2005 sailing offshore Vancouver to San Francisco and then coastal cruising to San Diego, through Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, Central America and Panama, to Ecuador in South America.

Her owners say: We are a retired couple who began sailing in 1990. We joined the Bluewater Cruising Association in Vancouver to meet other wannabe offshore sailors and educate ourselves about the lifestyle and skills needed.  We started our trip in 2005 and have returned to Vancouver each year for the summer.

What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free and why? We are equipped to suit our needs so it would have to be something frivolous like a generator to satisy the Captain's ongoing quest for power, but space is the issue here rather than cost.  Or perhaps a satellite phone but we don't know who we'd call (!).

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? Cruisers, both dreamers and doers, worry about weather and breakdowns.  Preparation is more useful than fear.  We try to evaluate weather information available onshore before making a passage, and at sea we monitor daily weather updates via GRIB files downloaded through SSB.  We carry a plethora of spare parts and David is capable of fixing almost anything on the boat.  Not all offshore cruisers have learned to maintain their boats and this should be a BIG worry.  Even if you have access to and can afford qualified tradesmen in port, you still have to be self reliant at sea.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why? Our finest cruising grounds between Vancouver and South America were the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.  White sand beaches, beautiful blue, warm water, snorkelling, spear fishing, day sailing and good weather forecasts.  For onshore exploration, backpacking in South America is fascinating with each country different from the next, and very cheap living and travel.  We camped in Tierra del Fuego, on the Beagle Channel at the tip of South America and luckily found a last minute cheap(er) exploration cruise from there to Antarctica.  We like taking our time and exploring the countries we visit.

nuage3 What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way? We learned Spanish.  It's a work in progress but, apart from being an interest and a lot of fun, it allows us to travel with confidence and enjoy the local people so much more.  It's good for bargaining too!

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time? We didn't have an opinion before we left but we are definitely cruiser/travellers and, although passages can be a zen experience, we are always pleased to be at anchor in a new destination with exploration ahead of us.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike? We like being part of a community and having an entree to meeting new people with the minimum of formality.  The sociability of cruisers in Mexico is outstanding;  however, as you venture out into more challenging sailing areas among a diversity of nationalities, there is not as much boater interaction.  Panama City is an example, being the crossroads of the world where boats are in preparation mode for either a transit or a crossing.  Dislike - cruising is a lot of physical work - more than is generally realized and in hot countries this can be wearing.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising? Attitude - stay calm, be outgoing, respect and appreciate your crew, be open minded, be generous, have fun.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?
At some point cruisers can get tired of the level of work involved with sailing a boat offshore and want to move on with land-based interests.  Or people can be attracted to the travel but not enjoy the passages.  Many young people can't afford more than a targeted one or two year cruise.  We know of only one boat which returned home after one year due to the crew's nervousness on the water.  You have to remember, it's OK to give it up - at least you tried.

Nuage 2 In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult? For my husband it was being away from family.  For me it was ensuring that business back home was being taken care of.  Neither are boat related - the first year was not a challenge to our enthusiasm for cruising.

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

What skills are necessary prior to casting off?

We crewed offshore prior to our trip and we preceded this with many years of coastal sailing and navigation in British Columbia in a variety of conditions and locations.  My husband installed most of the equipment on the boat, becoming completely familiar with her in the process.  What he didn't know, he learned, which has proved invaluable to us offshore.  We also rely heavily on HAM/SSB radio and contact with other operators while on passages so getting the HAM licence is wise.