03 October 2011

10 Questions for TimeMachine

Editor’s Note: There are actually 14 questions answered (my fault – the readers’ gain) and TimeMachine introduces themselves: We are Cheyenne & Joshua from s/v Time Machine. We left San Francisco in 2005 and sailed down the Pacific, through the canal, and up the Caribbean back to TX, landing in 2007. I had never sailed before but Joshua grew up in and on boats and had tons of sailing experience; his father built a 40-foot version of our boat in the late 70s-80s. Time Machine was a 31' Jim Brown Searunner (trimaran), home built out of plywood, fiberglass, and a crapload of epoxy. The boat looked kinda Star Wars and sailed beautifully. We bought it with the initial intention of toodling around the bay but that immediately turned into "Let's quit our jobs and go to Mexico!" and six months later, we did, and we just kept going. We are taking time now to raise a kid but are planning the Next Trip as soon as the toddler moves beyond the highly volatile tantrum stage and becomes more predictable. We started a blog when we purchased the boat and chronicled our trip through June 2007.

Describe the compromises (if any) that you have made in your cruising in order to stay on budget
I guess this sounds weird, but we really didn't have a budget. Cruising was the cheapest way we had ever lived, and we always lived fairly conservatively. We could easily have halved our expenditures if we had cut out the booze, but we like booze. Part of this might have been because we sailed a fairly small and spare boat: no refrigeration, no windvane, no radar, no through-holes in our hull of any kind, no SSB radio, no inboard motor (though we had a 6-horse outboard), no oven, no dodger, we did our dishes in a bucket at the edge of the boat, and we did not pull up alongside a dock or marina after leaving the US until we landed in Texas 18 months later. There just wasn't a whole lot that could go wrong. We did break the rudder though off Honduras; we jury rigged it with some rope.  

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why? I had a few things packed that I didn't end up ever using--and of course which took up precious real estate. As one example, I envisioned us dining upon Caesar salads nightly (I actually brought along a small salad spinner.. I know!) but this notion was shot all to bits when we discovered romaine to be nearly nonexistent in Mexico. Furthermore, lettuce of any kind doesn't keep worth a damn onboard in the tropics. Ditto cilantro, but that's another story. About 14 months in, we had a lot of little expired tins of anchovies to attend to... Things got creative then.  

What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle? My absolute least favorite part about cruising was the possibility of having to pull anchor in the middle of the night and get out of there because of prevailing wind change, sudden lee shore squall, etc. For example, we were happily sleeping nestled amongst the gorgeous Murcielagos off Costa Rica when we had a sudden and alarming wind change at 1am. Fearing the start of the dreaded "papagayo" wind, we beat upwind until we were somewhat in the lee of the mainland, trying to get coffee started on a bouncing boat, all of us grumpy as all get-out (we had a guest with us). TimeMachine_above 

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why? Handheld backpacker's waterproof GPS (our primary). It was blue and sparkly and the size of a cell phone. It was also tough, easy to carry around with us if we felt like taking a land excursion, and it did well with batteries. Other things I could not have survived without: Really good knives and nice general galley gadgetry. It is a pleasure to cook in a confined space when you are dicing with a Shun santoku, on a beloved mesquite cutting board, with some good rum in an actual stemmed glass next to you... We went with the theory that when one is paring down to the essentials, one should select really excellent essentials. I would also have to nominate the kayak for a favorite piece of gear (we had an inflatable due to space issues). It's so lovely to be able to slink around the ocean silently, efficiently, discretely. You get to sneak up on so much wildlife this way, fit through narrow channels, up streams and rivers; the kayak was our dinghy most of the time.  

What piece of gear seems to break the most often? The citrus squeezer. Seriously; you'd think limes were made out of acid or something.  

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad? We were very conservative sailors (my doing, most surely) and did not budge unless the weather was favorable. That said, we did not always encounter following seas and fair winds. We had 15-18' seas and a gale rounding Pt. Conception, of which I had no idea until after since it was 3am, I only had two days of sailing experience under my belt when I took over watch/driving, and all I could see anyway was glowing green foam (whoa, groovy). We got 50+ knots of wind along the Tehuantapec, which was so unpleasant I had to change clothing to skin-tight things lest I get shirt-burn (shirt burn is serious business!). We had the worst sea conditions coming around Punta Mala (Point Bad, and it was) into the Bay of Panama, where we played frogger all night long with the tankers in large and confused seas. And finally, our very last day sailing crossing the Gulf of Mexico, we got hit by the nastiest squall we had ever seen. It was raining lightning bolts everywhere and Joshua saw balls of lightning racing along the wavetops. It all sucks pretty badly while it is happening but once you are through it, you remember it as just another wild story.  

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising? We met many people who had started off on their around-the-world cruise but had stopped along the way. Every single port we visited (starting with Ensenada) had at least one boat that just found what it had been looking for and needed to go no further. And there they stayed, three, ten, twenty years.. They always had good stories and LOTS of advice. We never met any of the people who had stopped cruising for other reasons because they had apparently gone home.

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how? I started out being afraid of open ocean, deep water, tipping over, sharks, of being along sailing a boat at night, of sea monsters... basically everything one could possibly be afraid of on a boat. I didn't know how to sail when we left, but it turns out that it's really pretty easy, and boats like ours don't easily tip over. Once I was forced to actually do all of the things I feared: be miles offshore in the ocean in the dark at night by myself sailing the boat, with sharks and sea monsters surely lurking beneath, it wasn't actually bad at all. I had just never done it before. Joshua always said we could call it quits when it stops being fun. We decided to take our break when I discovered I was pregnant but I wouldn't necessarily say we have quit yet.  

What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way? You can keep cheese for a long time if you put it in a jar covered with oil. You can buy the cheapest, plainest, most tasteless white cheese, pack it under veggie oil of some sort, and after three weeks to a month, it starts to get sharp. The longer you leave it, the sharper and better it tastes. I also kept ginger in vodka for a long time (ginger always went bad immediately otherwise). TimeMachine_anchored 

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer? My favorite places were the Sea of Cortez; we were there in the winter and so had to split for hurricane season (we decided to go south). I would like to spend a spring and summer there as well. Then we loved the western Islands of Panama. So much to see and so many deserted islands. We were down to half an onion and some random tubers by the time we got to Panama City.

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? We had various cruising guides (i.e., Charlie's Charts) that listed the basics, but regulations and procedures change quickly everywhere. We always brought everything we thought we could possibly need and then expected to be directed from there. Usually we ended up crossing town a few times to visit various auxiliary offices for random stamps or additional copies, etc. We ended up with amusing stories with every check-in and check-out, so I'd say it was always worth the hassle.  

What is your most common sail combination on passage? 
I think we did them all with regularity and probably averaged 2-3 different jibs per day. Maybe we were finicky with our sails but our boat was very lightweight and touchy. We did not have a roller furling but rather a hank-on system. We had four jibs: the mule, the 170, a gennaker, and a storm jib for those exciting moments that are only really exciting when you look back later, you know, knowing you lived through it and all that.   

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?
Sharks. Whales.  

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

What is your favorite part about cruising?

Arriving in an anchorage after a passage--more so of course if a nasty passage, but even the smoothest passages were best ended with a lovely quiet cove in which to rest. We didn't draw much so we always had the pick of the place as to where to drop our anchor. First we would sit for a moment, soaking in the calm. Then we would start wandering around the boat, picking things up, stowing the sails, tidying up things that got knocked around. Maybe jump overboard to cool/rinse off and check the anchor. Once things were relatively squared away, the rum would come out and we'd sit on the top of our cabin checking out at our new temporary home. We would talk about how to spend the remaining day, where we would go tomorrow. And plan something awesome for dinner.