10 October 2011

10 Questions for Silas Crosby

sc1 Steve Millar on Silas Crosby completed a self-interview in the Newly Salted style. You can read the original interview here or the perspective of another crew member, his niece Meredith, in her interview.
At age 56, I am in the middle of another long (metaphorical) cruise.

I started sailing at age 9 just south of Vancouver in a 9′ dinghy, then, in high I school built a 17′ catamaran and cruised the Gulf Islands of BC. My parents didn’t sail or know anything about it.

After several years of race boat crewing, I helped sail a 40′ cutter from Auckland to Vancouver over 6 months in 1974. A good taste of the South Pacific. After a hiatus of about 6 or 7 years of not much sailing, my wife and I bought a Spencer 35 named ‘Cor Leonis’ in 1986. We did an initial trip to Haida Gwaii, then took off again for a classic 3 year trip to Mexico and on to New Zealand , where our son was born.

Returning to BC via Samoa and Hawaii, in 1991, we settled in the Comox Valley, sold the Spencer 35 , had another child , and built the Brent Swain 36 steel twin-keeler, ‘Silas Crosby’ . The construction was a joint project with my brother John , and took 2 yrs and 4 months. After launching in about 1994 we cruised far and wide on the BC coast.

In 2001 the 4 of us did a north Pacific triangle cruise over a year, to Mexico, Hawaii, and home to BC again.

About a year ago in Sept 2010, we set off again to try to fulfill a long held dream., to explore the cruising grounds of the channels and islands of southern Chile and Patagonia. This time the crew was Steve (56) , my brother  (69), and niece Meredith (25). John sailed with us as far as La Paz in the Sea of Cortez before returning to Vancouver.

The idea of sailing from cold water in BC to colder water in southern Chile did not appeal to my wife Barb, so she elected to stay home and live the good life, untroubled by boat fanatics.

We are now in Valdivia, Chile, reaching the end of the austral winter. We arrived about 4 months ago via Easter Island, Galapagos, and Mexico.In the next week or two we plan to continue south eventually reaching Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino sometime around March 2012.

Tell me your favorite things about your boat.
Steel hull , twin keels , continuous tube liferails.  We pay a little bit for the twin keels when hard on the wind , but we still had a good passage from Galapagos to Easter Island with the wind forward of the beam the whole way.

The solid liferails are very sensible. I think only Amel installs them as standard on a production boat. Recommended safety item.

Tell me your least favorite thing about your boat.
Concern about rust. Not too big a problem in the first 17 years , but one does have to pay attention, despite flame-spraying during construction.

I would have loved to be able to justify the expense of a folding or feathering prop. Probably good for 1/2 knot on the wind , maybe more in light winds. The right deal has never come up in a 17 x 15″ 3- blade prop.
Of course, we need a 50′ boat to live aboard in rainy weather but only a 36′ boat to sail and pay for.

sc2 How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
Our worst weather was the last week coming in to Chile. We were really psyched up to get some bad weather, and would have been surprised had we not. So the two fronts that passed over us were uncomfortable, but OK.

Until that time I had used the storm jib and trysail only once before to slow down in strong winds coming in to New Zealand in 1987.

Can you think of a sailing tip (e.g., sail trim, sail combination) specific to offshore passages (e.g., related to swells)?  
This is interesting. We really use our whisker pole a lot, and try to sail wing and wing as much as possible because it is so comfortable, steady, and just generally easy on our boat.  When we arrived in Valdivia we have found several cruising boats that don’t even own a whisker pole and make their way downwind by jibing. These are all boats that have sailed thousands and thousands of miles to get here.

Another interesting thing we’ve discovered is how many crews do not keep a watch system. Many of the solo sailors just go to bed and get up whenever. Also some of the couples both turn in at bedtime and get up for breakfast. Some have AIS and radar watches but some don’t.

We tend to generally enjoy the night watches, sort of for private time.

Over the time that you have been cruising, has the world of cruising changed? 
Starting in 1974 we navigated the old, scary , approximate way. The last week coming in to Cape Scott with an RDF and DR was sketchy. GPS is excellent .We have occasionally dug out the sextant, mostly to look at it in wonder, but we don’t push the ‘off’ button on the GPS.  But really, the fundamentals have not changed at all. The people are still the same, great and friendly and helpful. The wilderness areas are still wild.
People still run up on reefs

Navigation is a lot easier, and much less stressful. That’s good.

Engines are more reliable. Sails are stronger and more durable.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
We have a 10 1/2 foot Portabote, a 7 1/2 foot inflatable , two 13′ solid plastic kayaks with sprayskirts, drysuits etc, and a 2 hp outboard. We haven’t actually used either of the dinghies since sometime in Mexico. It is a lot of gear to be hauling around. I expect we will need the inflatable in Patagonia for shoreline etc.

What do you miss about living on land?
My family.

While cruising, what do you do about health & boat insurance, medical issues, banking and mail delivery?
DAN emergency health insurance and 2 yr coverage from BC government health system. I went to medical school to prepare for cruising , probably overkill (!) but it is helpful. I was offered a pre-emptive appendectomy , but declined , and brought injectable antibiotics instead.

Banking , taken care of by Herself at Home.

Mail : what mail?

Why did you decide to cruise?
Reading Slocum , then Chichester as a 10 or 12 year old.

What did you do to make your dream a reality? 
Became Obsessive.

Finish this sentence. “Generally when I am provisioning…”
I think that food (any food) is important. Also I am associated with experts in the form of Barb and Meredith.

How do you fund your cruise?

Entering Caleta Hassler, Isla San Martin Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time? 
The romance of voyaging under sail in a small capable vessel to interesting and far-off lands has not faded for me in the least. Miles Smeeton was the first writer that conveyed that to me. It is the travel across oceans under sail. Sailing is important.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?
As a general lesson, for me, when the ‘Cruising Blues’ set in, it is time to leave town. It happens more often, but not exclusively, in the cities.

I have been back to the Baja side 3 times and around Vancouver Island 6 times, so those must be my favorites.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
After several voyages without an HF transmitter on board , I am really enjoying blabbing on the SSB and Ham nets , and on informal scheds. I find that there is still lots of time for watching the birds , the waves, and the insides of my eyelids. The 2 x 85 watt solar panels are plenty to power the radio and the little Engel fridge(also a first for us)

The crude windvane, built to an old design is invaluable.

What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free?
Fluency in Spanish. It isn’t free, though. I has cost me many, many hours to get to the early intermediate stage.

What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way?
Mast Up and Water Outside. Hot tips.

How much does cruising cost?  
$17,345.43 per year, plus or minus, depending on beer.