07 August 2017

10 Questions for Journey

Wayne Seitz & Dana Greyson cruised from 2012 until 2017 aboard SV Journey, a 1977 Pearson 365 ketch, hailing from Portland, OR, USA (though Journey's never been there).

They bought Journey in St. Lucia and sailed up the Caribbean chain, back to Florida. From there they spent time in the Bahamas before returning to Florida, before continuing on through to the Panama Canal. They crossed the Pacific to New Zealand, then spent another season in the islands before finishing their cruise in Australia where they sold their boat.

They say: "We do see ourselves returning to cruising down the road, though not likely making a trans-Pacific crossing. Wayne, a savvy mechanic, is still a frequent contributor to the Pearson owners forum.  We're incredibly humbled by and grateful to the many Pearson owners generosity to us.  I've published a number of Cruising World shorts, the most recent in June/July '17, a heartwarming story about an island dog in New Caledonia supported by cruisers via Cat Impi's GoFundMe campaign."

You can learn more about their cruise on their blog.

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

For the money, we still felt we did well with our Pearson 365; safety -- a solid blue water boat on a budget was our driving criteria.  Journey definitely delivered.  With a bigger budget, a boat with a "man cave" and a better alternative to our v-berth for sleeping would've been excellent.  We were very tempted partway into our cruising to switch to a Manta 37 catamaran for its more comfortable layout, but decided it was outside our budget and felt more confident we would recoup our buying price more easily with a lower cost boat, like our Pearson.  We'd still have preferred a cutter rig over a ketch.

Bottom line:  better speed and more comfort would've made long passages less stressful.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?

Get new sails -- at least a new mainsail -- before you go if you plan to do substantial cruising, even if what you have is in okay condition.  We figure we spent more money fixing what what we had than we would have for new sails, and we would've sailed much more efficiently, too.

While SSBs are slowly being replaced by satellite technology, we wish we had a working SSB setup not only for safety, but also to be more connected with cruiser nets, especially for the Pacific Puddle Jump (PPJ)

Buying your boat outside the US offers greater than expected challenges when it comes to getting your boat cruise-ready (especially when it comes to getting the parts you need affordably - or at all). After we sailed to the US, we left with a LOT of spares for the rest of our journey and they served us well.

We actually did this - worked at West Marine part time to enjoy the awesome employee discount on our boat gear.  We thanked West Marine every day for the gear we'd never have had the budget to buy full retail.  We also got fabulous advice from Milltown Sailing club (in Everett WA), Wendy Hinman ("Tightwads on the Loose" and "Sea Trials" author) and Seattle Women in Boating.  Connecting with the sailing/boating community (experienced folks who are not connected with selling you stuff) and the Pearson forum was invaluable.  We also crewed on three boats before we left, which taught us some good lessons.  Wayne read just about everything he could get his hands on online about cruising (including Interview with a Cruiser).

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?

Our oversized Rocna anchor.  We got it after our first season and slept much better after that.  The only time we dragged once we got the 42lb  Rocna anchor was because our windlass broke so we scarcely put down any chain.

CPT autopilot.  Not fancy or integrated but incredibly more robust than other more popular wheel pilots.  Incredible customer service, too.

An illegal propane instant-on hot water heater for a darned nice shower for a boat as relatively small as ours.  Even in the tropics a hot shower just makes you feel more human afterward.

Iridium Go! wifi hotspot with Predict Wind. Getting accurate relatively forecasts in middle of the ocean was pretty awesome, as was keeping in touch via texting from it (the latter really helped me feel less isolated on long passages like the 32 days it took us to go from Galapagos to the French Marquesas).

Soda Stream soda machine- great way to keep drinking water interesting without having all the extra soda bottles or lugging them shore-to-ship.

How much does cruising cost?

We paid $30,000 cash for our sturdy 1977 Pearson 365 sailboat.  We chose to aim for a fairly lean cruising budget of $1500 month for everything - from boat repair, to food, customs and immigration, entertainment  -- everything.  In places like Fiji we had no problem coming in under budget. However extensive boat maintenance and repairs in New Zealand and overall cost of living in Australia put us over budget in those areas.  We also chose to not insure our boat or carry health insurance, which we knew was risky but also prompted us to take less risks.  We also trusted fate and were willing to pay out of pocket for any medical needs.  We rarely stayed in marinas.  On the backside, after all our import and pre-sale and commission costs (~$10K USD), we sold our boat for a net of ~$46K USD. That net included putting in some extra work to save 5% duty on the valuation price (for a US-built boat under the thanks to the US Trade Act Agreement) and selling off boat accessories (ex. Iridium Go!, life raft, backup autopilot, etc. for $3.5K) not required by Journey's new owner.  Our boat sale was not really a $16K profit!  We spent a significant amount of money on maintenance, repairs (like this one) and gear well beyond $16K, and we were pretty frugal.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you? 

Too many long, uncomfortable passages -- and relatively speaking ours were fairly benign.  Thanks to doldrums, contrary winds (often despite what was forecast), currents that behaved differently than anticipated, torn sails, etc. most passages took us longer than expected.  Having a genuinely pleasant sail, however, was exceptionally rare for us.  Also, with the two of us as sole crew, we missed quality time together while on long passages.  There's no sleeping together when one of you always has to be on watch.

What is your most common sail combination on passage? 

Jib only, followed by main and jib.  We had a mizzen which we rarely used.  Our autopilot was very prone to weather helm, which led us to a very cautious approach on how much sail we put up.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was overrated (not as good as you had heard)? 

Panama's official check-in rudeness and cost soured us when we first came to the country to a point it was difficult to overcome (though Isla Contadora, our last Panama stop was a great place to relax).

Bora Bora's over-commercialization turned us off

Vanuatu's cruise-shippy Efate was also an area where it seemed little could be enjoyed for free.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated (better than you had heard)?  

New Caledonia was a pleasant surprise, refreshing us after we'd felt somewhat burned out.  The sailing was easy, anchorages plentiful and varied, with lots of well-maintained hiking trails and islands with great snorkeling.  We appreciate the ease of checking in and out of most French territories and New Caledonia was no exception.

Spanish Virgins were charming, far more interesting and less commercial ashore than BVIs or USVIs

Maupiti was a sweet place, unplanned to end our stay in French Polynesia with our favorite lookout point view.  We were fortunate to catch a good weather window in; we saw how nasty its narrow reef entrance can get the day after we arrived.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette  

When you socialize with other cruisers in an anchorage, consider casting your net wider to invite the whole anchorage.  Make a point of at least saying "hello" and introducing yourself to other cruisers in the anchorage, even if your default is to just stick with the folks you're buddy-boating with.  You never know just how much being inclusive is appreciated, or how much being left out can sting.

In your own experience and your experience meeting other cruisers, what are the common reasons people stop cruising?

In our case, we stuck to our plan, a budget enough to cover 5 years of cruising, and we were reticent to tackle the sailing challenges between Australia and the US to finish a circumnavigation.  We completed our goal; even if ours was halfway around the world (others stop when they circle the whole blue marble).  Missing our friends, but especially parents, especially those who don't travel and are in their late 80s and 90s, also prompted our return home -- all the more so as our budget didn't include trips home to visit friends and family. We've observed cruising parents needing to usher their children into college are one call to end cruising.  Health issues, among cruisers themselves, or with other family members are prime reasons to stop cruising.  An empty cruising kitty is often easier to replenish with a long break from cruising, and a return to more traditional work for a while.

Particularly for frugal cruisers like us, at some point the clarion call of a queen-sized bed you don't whack your head on when you sit up and endless hot showers is darned compelling.

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

What scared you?  (specifically, we were often asked about "pirates" and "storms" as well as other "I wouldn't go because" questions....)

We never encountered pirates, because they're not that common and Noonsite offers excellent information on areas to avoid.  The only time we ever got "boarded" was by a confused homeless fellow in Jacksonville FL; he left without incident.

We never encountered sustained winds of over 30 knots or sustained waves over 4 meters (and >1-2 meters were most common) - boring but true

What scared us the most was our last long passage - two seriously nasty lightening storms coming into Bundaberg Australia. The first lasted about 2 hours, followed later by a shorter lightening storm in our last few miles in.  Both times, we dropped our sails, turned off our electronics and put all we could in our "Faraday cage" (oven) in anti-stat bags.  We didn't get hit, but sure thought we would.
Overall, we were incredibly lucky as well as well prepared.  We also can't help but wonder how many other boats cruise relatively unscathed... it just doesn't make as interesting "press" but all those scary stories sure do discourage a lot of folks from ever considering even getting into a boat, much less distance cruising.