03 July 2017

10 Questions for Dos Libras

Tammy, Bruce, and Jezabelle the cat have been cruising since 2013 aboard Dos Libras, a 1995 Catalina Morgan 45 hailing from Corpus Christi, TX, USA. They traveled down the ICW to the Gulf of Mexico from Corpus Christi to Florida then ICW and Coastal down to the Florida Keys. They turned North up the East Coast as far as Charleston, SC., then spent a season in the Bahamas.  They returned to Florida for a summer and then passed through Bahamas on their way down the Caribbean island chain.

You can read more about their cruise on their website.

They say: "We cruise very slowly.  We’ve spent the past three summers in various marinas plugged into the dock with wifi and air conditioning while doing boat projects.  We may or may not do the same this next summer down south.  

Something changed for us over this past summer in Puerto Rico.  Before then we have always felt “compelled” to be on our way to somewhere/  It is difficult to explain but while in Puerto Rico, we realised that we had no real plan until late in the summer and even then it was just to amble slowly down the Eastern Caribbean chain and then decide.  

Bruce is not getting any younger and the stresses of keeping up with the maintenance and repairs is beginning to wear on him.  At this point we may be looking for a place to stop moving and spend a longer period… but…no plans to return to the US!"

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true? 

I did a lot of research prior to leaving home and found many sources of information.  Gradually over time I have realised that much of the negative information and warnings provided by others has been exaggerated.  Warnings about areas where current is an issue, warnings about shallow waters, warnings about passes or entrances that are tricky. I don’t know if we have just been lucky, or if our skill level is perhaps more developed than the authors of those warnings… but we have taken our boat into places that are supposed to be difficult, with little or no difficulty at all.  That is not to say that a healthy amount of caution is a bad thing. We all have to know our own skill level and what our boat will do, but just don’t be put off completely by what you read. Dig deeper and take current conditions into consideration when making your decision.  You just might miss someplace wonderful if you’re too easily put off.

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

I have to laugh at this question.  We cruise so slowly and stay so long in some places that we’ve almost forgotten how to plan for passages.  What I consider to be a passage is anything that will require us to establish a watch schedule.  We have found that for the two of us, a two hour watch schedule works best.  It is short enough that we don’t become fatigued, and after the initial sleep, it seems that we are able to fall asleep quickly enough to get a good rest.  I always make brownies or cookies and prepare some pasta salad that is easy to serve and has lots of goodies in it.  I’ve always got my route planned out and we’ve been pretty close in our estimation of the time it will take to arrive with sufficient daylight to safely navigate to our destination.  I guess that is more than one thing isn’t it?  

In your experience how often do you think cruisers spend sailing vs. motoring, coastally vs. on passage? 

We spend a lot more time motorsailing than we ever thought we would.  We always try to sail when possible, but we are not willing to let our boat speed drop below 4 knots for very long before the engine gets fired up.  We have found that the winds are often close to on-the-nose as we’ve been making our way east until now.  But I still hold onto that hope that now that we’ll be traveling in a more N/S direction, we can sail more.  A huge contributing factor that requires motorsailing is that for passages, we would rather wait for conditions that provide a more kindly sea state, which often means lighter winds.  We would rather motorsail in more flat seas than travel under sail alone in seas much over five feet.  Thus far, current has also been an issue - we’ve been traveling against it.  The majority of our longer passages have been with reefed and overtrimmed main to steady the boat, and with the engine on to help us point closer to the lay line.  

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike? 

I like the fact that you can make it what you wish. If you want to have bunches of friends and a full social calendar no problem.  If you want to keep to yourself and see almost no-one that’s OK too.  If I had to come up with a dislike it would be that in some of the more popular Cruiser hang-outs it is sometimes difficult to get OFF of the merry-go-round!

What is a cruising tip or a trick you learned along the way? 

Tea Tree Oil.  I used it a lot the first couple of years out. Now it seems like I find myself using less and less but I believe that is because the mildew has been killed.  I clean my ceilings and walls much less often and my towels don’t get stinky like they used to.  (I use tea tree oil in my laundry soap and in home-mixed cleaners)

What do you miss about living on land? 

Not being wet and salty when I get to where I’m going. Whenever we go ashore in the dinghy it is almost guaranteed that we will be thoroughly splashed either coming or going. Secondly I miss fast internet.  Finding a signal that is fast enough to do much blogging is a constant struggle.  I dream of fast, unlimited internet.
Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was overrated (not as good as you had heard)? Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)? 

I have found each place we’ve been to be better than I thought it would be in some way or other.  I have a tendency to project past experiences on my expectations for the future.  I have been proven wrong time and again.  Each place is unique and completely different from how I thought it would be.  I have to remind myself of this so that we won’t skip someplace that could be wonderful!
Speaking just about your boat (not gear), what is one thing you wish your boat had that it doesn’t and what is one thing your boat has that you wish it didn't? 

I wish we had more deck storage lockers… but then we would have to give up some inside space, so it’s a trade-off.  I can’t really think of anything we wish our boat did not have…

What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free?  

A new in-house generator and additional battery amp hours.  Our Fischer Panda has died and we are using portable generators.  While this is doing an adequate job, it is a lot of work for Bruce to charge up the house bank, which he has to do at least once per day, sometimes twice depending upon cloud cover. It is also difficult for us to be “that boat” in the anchorage that ruins a perfectly good sunset with a noisy generator.

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

We’ve been asked many times why we chose to round Hispaniola to the west and cruise the southern coast of the Dominican Republic instead of following Van Sant’s instructions to do the northern coast.

We like to review all available resources and then make our own decisions as to when and where to sail.  For us, it seemed more sensible, safer and more comfortable to go the way we did at the time of year we did.  Late in the winter when the norther’s were less frequent and weaker, but still making it down as far as Hispaniola the light wind days just before the north winds arrived would provide us with easy travel east, and then when the winds turned north, the island provided protection from the high winds and waves, but we could still travel east with the north wind to carry us along on a beam reach.  Seas were very flat with the island between us and the  winds blasting off of the Atlantic ocean, so it was perfect.  We experienced none of the danger of being on the northern shore with fewer safe anchorages and much higher seas.

The Mona Passage also seems more benign further south and we had a shorter passage than the northern route.  The timing was much easier without having to worry about the hourglass shoals. Plus the storms that roll off of Puerto Rico don’t affect the southern Mona as much.  I don’t know why anyone would ever choose that route over the one we took.  Note:  It can be a very different experience at a different time of year.  We had help with late season northers.