05 June 2017

10 Questions for Banyan

David MacDonald & Alexandra Palcic began cruising in 2012 aboard SV Banyan, a 2001 Jeanneau 40 Sun Odyssey hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

They describe their sailing route as: "South from Nova Scotia, all the way! On the serious side though, we sailed away from our home port of Halifax in July 2012. Navigating the coast and crossing from Shelbourne to Bar Harbour (ME). We then followed the Eastern Seaboard southwards. January of 2013 had us making the “big” crossing, from NoName Harbour (Fl) to Bimini (Bahamas) where we spent two months basking in gin clear waters and beautiful beaches. In March, two back to back cold fronts appeared and we used this perfect weather window to sail from Georgetown towards Puerto Rico (via two stops, one night at Mayaguana, Bahamas, and two nights at Ocean World, Puerto Plata D.R.) The trip was all about downwind Sailing, with our spinnaker flying, wow! 

Adventuring through the Leewards & Windwards where Grenada became our home for Hurricane Season, and for the next three years we explored these amazing Caribbean Islands, going as far South as Trinidad, and as far North as Puerto Rico. In 2015 Banyan needed some work, and we needed a change, so we pointed our bow North and followed our tracks back to the US of A. We hauled out in Florida where boat jobs took precedence, and where we toured North America on our new land yacht for H-Season. The winter of 2017 had us adventuring in the beautiful Bahamas." 

You can learn more about their cruise on their blog or Facebook page.

They say: "We got married on our boat, and named her Banyan (like the tree, but not!). So what IS a Banyan? With both of our ties to the Canadian Navy (Dave, after 33 years is now retired and nicknamed The Chief. I worked on the Civilian side of things, and am affectionately known as The Admiral). We wanted a term meaningful to both. Canadian Naval Personnel use the term “Banyan” as a break in daily routine; time to enjoy a social gathering while away from the chores of daily life at sea. Loosely it translates to  “Great Times, Great Food, with Great Shipmates (Friends)”. Something we get to enjoy often with the wonderful people we’ve met along the way."

Do you have any specific advice for couples cruising?

You mean “How do you live together in 40 feet of space, 24/7?” LOL. We get asked this a lot! Well, you have to like each other. Thoughtful and respectful communication is paramount. We each have strengths & weaknesses: sometimes one person does more, and sometimes the other person does more. At the end of the day/week/cruise it all balances out.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising? 

Flexibility, first and foremost. Weather rules all. Patience. No schedule. Nothing is as easy as it seems. And everything always happens at once. Always.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?

Hate this question. Our favourite place? All of them! Each place is unique and special and has somethings offer in its very own way. There is nothing like the fantastically beautiful waters of the Bahamas. Or the rugged natural beauty of Dominica. Or the culture (and food!!) of the gorgeous Martinique and Guadeloupe  But what turns ME on about a place, might turn YOU off.

The key is to explore forth, have an open mind and a smile on your face, see what happens, and create your own memories.

With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?

Do your own research!! Know what type of cruising you’re going to be doing. If you get a heavy boat, which is safe and comfortable for long offshore/ocean passages, that’s great. But realize you need lots of wind to get a heavy boat moving. And heavy wind typically results in bigger seas. Which typically results in more spirited conditions. Some think they need all sorts of space and buy bigger. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, as the costs associated with extra-foot-itis increase exponentially (think dockage if you’re entering a marina that charge by the foot!). What’s your skill level? Don’t buy a fixer upper, if you can’t or hate to fix things. Know what it is that YOU’RE looking to do, with the experience YOU have, and for how long you’ll be out there for, and use your answers to go looking. And remember, no boat is perfect, it’s always a compromise.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why? 

Nothing really. We went in as minimalists, and with time, still found we had too much. But then, there was this one thing we bought while at the Annapolis Boat Show five years ago. We saw an Air Chair (a hammock type of chair that can be hung by a halyard and allow you to swing in the wind) and thought it would be the perfect way to relax, while at anchor, in idyllic conditions. IN reality? Not so much. We gave it away this year after trying to use it twice.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?

That it’s all about great sailing, in perfect weather, and then sipping margaritas on a secluded beach somewhere. It’s harder, and more work than I thought it would be. And yet, I’m continuously gobsmacked by the rewards.

How often did you face bad weather in your cruising? How bad?  

As much as we try to analyze the weather patterns of the area where we’re leaving from AND going to, nothing is ever perfect. We’ve have gotten caught a few times. During one of our crossings we looked behind us and saw some seriously black skies coming right at us. We got caught in some heavy weather, that ripped our canvas and had us coming to anchor weather whipped and soaked, and thankfully safe. And then there were these weather spouts in the Bahamas that we had to swerve away from, with the boat in front of us almost getting hit.

And then there was the Conga Line of Storms off
St Vincent & Grenadines that had us navigating through them and around them (thank goodness for radar) and turning around twice to wait them out. That experience had my knees shaking and kissing the ground when we arrived. And then there was that time we were racing in the Carriacou Regatta, and the squalls enveloped us.

What did you miss about living on land? 

Fast and furious WiFi at my Fingertips ALL the time. My very own washer and dryer. And although I have the biggest and best bathtub in the world, sometimes I miss the power of a full on, non-stop shower with massage function on the nozzle.

Finish this sentence “One thing I’ve learned about navigating is…” 

… It’s all about adjusting the sails, all the time, because the wind rarely blows the way you want it to. And the last three miles to your anchorage/mooring ball/marina? Are always the longest, ever!

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

Not so much a question but just musings from our personal experiences of the last five years. Whatever your dream, just do it. Don’t extinguish the wind in someone else’s dream unless you’ve sailed a mile on their tack. See you somewhere south of somewhere.