19 September 2011

10 Questions for Pelican

pelican2Jonas first started cruising when he was 24, on a 32 ft Pearson Vanguard, "Tabasco". He completed a two year coastal cruise from California down to Costa Rica and back in 1995-1997.  In 2006, he found Pelican, a Pearson Alberg 35, in Seattle.

He says: I left on what turned out to be a nearly five year single handed circumnavigation.  The route was Mexcio, South Pacific, refit in New Zealand, Melanesia, north of Australia, up to the Andaman side of SE Asia, Sri Lanka, East Africa, Cape Agulhaus, Brazil, north coast of South America, Caribbean, Panama Canal and back to Mexico.  In my homeport of San Francisco I am an active member at the Cal Sailing club in Berkeley where I regularly volunteer teach sailing. 

You can learn more about his circumnavigation on his website.

Have you found "trade goods" to be useful on your cruise? If so, what kinds? Yes, in some areas they can still have value.  Cell phone digital cameras are popping up everywhere but a printer with photo quality paper to actually print the pics out (especially family portrait photos as gifts) is great to have.    22 caliber bullets in the Marquesas and you will be treated like a king.  Plain old aluminum oxide sandpaper in Tikopia got me praise from the chiefs!  Cheap dive masks in any underdeveloped island community.

What are your impressions of the cruising community? Too much money in the cruising scene...  The go now and go modest philosophy isn't popular at all.  There is an informal club out there called "under 40".  It isn't just about being out cruising while under forty years of age but also having less than forty thousand US invested in the boat.  This is rarer than being younger.  When you came across another member, the "club" is always a topic of conversation as it is pretty rare to meet young cruisers on a budget. The community makes one feel that cruising is not a lifestyle to get
away from the "real world" as much as it is a reward for having done well in it...

pelican3What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way? When you get to an anchorage off a village and you need to figure out where to put your dinghy, instead of locking it up or paying money for someone to watch it, loan it to a local that wants to go fishing. Initiating that sort of level of trust and sharing will open a lot of doors and in a small village everyone knows everyone else.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why? Storm trysail and separate track if single handling on a small boat. The reality I found is that by the time you want to set it up, the motion of the boat is so much that it is unsafe to set.  A deeper third reef in the main is a better solution.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad? The saying that it is much safer offshore than close to land in a blow is really true.  I was in an anchorage in the San Blas when a strong squall ripped through in the middle of night.  It was literally airborne dinghies, a lot of screaming on the VHF, and so much rain you couldn't see who was dragging and who wasn't.  Luckily most squalls don't last long so no boats were lost.  Some boats scrapped against the reef and there were destroyed windlasses.  The same squall offshore would have been nothing serious.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising? I made the mistake of not taking enough chances. During my first season through the South Pacific, the lagoon passes with descriptions like  "outbound currents up to 9 knots", or "not visited by author" or
"even the locals respect it" were skipped.  I chose destinations that had reliable charts, that had facilities and were not too tricky to get in or out of.  I should have done a bit more of the opposite... In the trades, you only get one downhill pass so you need to make it count.  Get over the fear of losing the boat and you will see places few do.

How do you learn about the rules and regulations of your next port of call before arriving or do you just arrive and find out? I remember being in Chagos when the Seychelles were surrounded by Somali motherships.  About half the cruising boats in Chagos that were originally west bound decided to not go any farther and instead went
back to Asia.  A handful of boats that were bound for Madagascar, including myself, took a huge detour to go south of the Salha de Maya Bank and ended up in Mauritius or Reunion.  From there we made landfall at Saint Marie on the windward side of Madagascar.  The entire exchange of information from rules and regulations of checking in to the latest on locations of the recent pirate attacks was handled by SSB and nets that were set up by boats in the area.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise? Most people who dream of cruising have usually only daysailed in pleasant conditions and need to have a major reality check before taking the plunge.  At my homeport of San Francisco it is consistently
25 knots and 7 to 8 foot seas right outside the Golden Gate Bridge.  I recommend all local wanna be cruisers to leave the protection of the bay, find a spot outside the shipping lanes and heave to for 48 hours
before coming back in the bay.  If this sounds like a crazy and senseless masochistic sort of torture session then you aren't ready for cruising.

pelican1 Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer? Being single, full of youth and out cruising on your own boat was a place that I could have stayed a little longer!

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

Have you ever wanted to quit cruising while still in the midst of doing it? 

Yes, a couple of times.   It got miserable enough that I ended up making a vow to never set foot on a boat or go to sea ever again.  The worst loneliness, extreme physical discomfort, and plain old gut wrenching fear can get to you. These are not true tragedies though and can be put into perspective.

I think those low moments when it doesn't seem like it is worth it happen to anyone who has been out long enough. The feeling always passed...