21 August 2017

10 Questions for Tranquility Bay

Scott, Kimberly and their ship cat Allie have been cruising since 2005 aboard SV Tranquility Bay, a 38' aluminum Groupe Finot Reve d'Antilles hailing out of Detroit, MI, USA. They have spent the last twelve years sailing up and down the east coast of America and throughout the Caribbean.

They say: "From the glass towers of NYC to the steamy jungles of the Banana Republics, we've been pondering escapism and searching for a more connected and meaningful way of life.

You can learn more about their cruise at their website and their YouTube channel.

Tell me your favorite thing and your least favorite thing about your boat

We take it for granted that our boat is incredibly strong. It always brings us feelings of security when the going gets rough. Something that appeals to us more regularly, however, is it's uniqueness. A lot of people – especially in the States – don't know what to make of it. It may as well be a spaceship with its unpainted aluminum topsides and bubble. People are usually very surprised when they come inside and settle into its cozy wood interior.

Our least favorite thing about our boat is that it is often difficult to go unnoticed. Its rugged fishing boat-like appearance has always appealed to us because in our minds it has a simple look, and not a yachty one. When we arrived in Panama, however, where most of the indigenous population paddles dugout canoes, it was hard to ignore the frequent amazement of many of the locals. They pound on the side grinning and say, “Aluminio!” Then they chuckle about scrap prices and the equivalent amount of recycled cans that they'd have to collect to make as much money as they could get by cutting off a chunk of our hull. Sometimes they make us nervous.

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

We'd love to have a set of lithium batteries. They're so light weight and put out so much juice. It would be a huge boon to our cruising comfort and if we ever ended up shipwrecked, we'd be carrying our own extensive prescription for depression. However, considering that lithium is a limited resource and witnessing the roadblocks faced by the electric car industry, we don't have fuzzy feelings about any big changes coming soon. But we'd sell our soul for a set of those babies! (hello sponsors?)

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

The percentage of motoring vs. actual sailing is hard to know, but what we certainly can say from our own experience is that there is a lot of impatience in the world. If you've just abandoned a thirty-year mortgage or walked away from an unfulfilling career and hopped aboard a sailboat, it can be hard to restrain your excitement. The wind isn't blowing, but you're anxious for the 'real' adventure to begin so you crank up the iron genny and head off, despite a forecast of glassy calm. Or in our own case, you start out making the mistake of jumping at the first stormy opportunity, puff out your chest and call yourselves 'real' sailors. Then you take a severe beating, and spend the next week shore-side looking for parts to replace everything you broke.

We see a lot of people out here trying to girdle the globe during one year sabbaticals. We also see lots of retirees deep into the final chapter of their lives – frequently complaining about there being “too much wind this year.” Of course people that have been out traveling longer tend to be tuned in closer to Mother Nature's frequencies, but really, the true percentages of sailing/motoring are all over the map. I don't think there is a science or study to accurately describe what percentage at any given time choose to motor or sail. Maybe chaos theory?

Spending days on end deafened by a throbbing engine, and enveloped in a cloud of soot isn't so magical. On the other hand, beating your brains back and forth and not making it into an anchorage before dark just to lay claim to some kind of sailing prowess certainly isn't smart either. Everybody wants to paint the perfect picture of their sail through paradise, but sometimes, you just have to eat it – with torn sails or a bruised ego. So … .. . 50/50???

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

There is always a lot of talk about the cruising community. The number of people actually going someplace in their boats is probably equivalent to the population of a small town, so it seems like a fitting analogy. It's remarkable how often we cross paths with the same people flitting about on sailboats.

We've had friends on boats deliver generous loads of medical and school supplies to third world villages. We've met crazy wandering gypsies that have told us stories about parts of the globe that we've never heard of. We've also met folks on shore that have welcomed us with open arms thanks to the many ambassadors of good will that have traveled before us. And then, there are the Hamburger Cruisers.

There are a lot of Hamburger Cruisers out here. Most of them are pretty friendly. Don't get us wrong, many of them have been wonderful to us, but it often seems that their main priority is to eat hamburgers in every country they visit. On an extended progressive dinner party, Hamburger Cruisers travel great lengths, at great expense and discomfort, seemingly, only to find their next patty. Sometimes, however, when there are no burgers to be found – things can get ugly.

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

Slow down and open yourself up to new experiences beyond sampling some local food and taking a tour. Ask yourself why you've signed up for this adventure. We often meet new people trying out life on a sailboat that think they're subscribing to some kind of special 'lifestyle' that they've caught a glimpse of on YouTube, but living and traveling on a boat isn't easy. It takes awhile just to get comfortable with your floating home and develop an understanding for how things work.

We've lost count of the number of times we've met cruisers committed to crazy accelerated plans – things like two year circumnavigations. They often have scarcely enough time to even say hello, much less keep their boat together before rushing off to the next spot. From what we've seen, it's a horrible way to see the world. What is the sense of traveling thousands of miles at great expense and a snails pace, only to do a waterfall tour and head off to the next place?

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

Probably the most common reason we find people bailing out early is that they've discovered traveling by sailboat was much more difficult and uncomfortable than they had imagined. It never occurred to them what it might feel like to get beat up for days on end. It continuously amazes us how many people – young and old – we watch head out for the first time after lengthy preparation, only to call it quits after they've had their first rough experience. Old age, and difficulties coping with the simple drudgery of operating a boat and living on it is another reason. Sometimes, the missus just wants to be with her grandchildren.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?

It's hard to pin down one place, but we do have fond memories of our time in Venezuela. We entered the country shortly after their president called ours the devil. Despite some positive reports we heard before departing Grenada, we had reservations. More than one couple tried to convince us that “Hugo Chaves will confiscate your boat.” While we thought this was foolish, we did debate flying a Canadian flag to save face. Later, we thought that was foolish as well.

The Venezuelans were some of the friendliest people we've met in our travels, and the diverse scenery there was otherworldly. There was a serious crime problem everywhere we went, but thanks to a howling black market currency exchange, we remained somewhat blind to the dangers. Trading a personal check for a backpack full of money was unbelievably exciting. It was like living in the old Wild West.

Over the coarse of a year, we rode a towering wave of economic collapse. Fuel was thirty cents a gallon – delivered. To our surprise, in addition to discovering that Venezuela was indeed a democracy, we learned that the island of Margarita was full of top notch shopping centers where we loaded up with goods at pennies on the black market dollar. We filled shopping cart after shopping cart full of quality liquors, exotic brands of chocolate and giant wheels of cheese. Lomito, Spanish for tenderloin, cost less than ground chuck, so we ate it like hamburger.

We had a great time in Venezuela, and we've never regretted taking advantage of the economic situation there. We were even given free health care as visitors. What's most interesting, however, are people's reactions to our stories about this amazing place. We tell stories of many of our friends that still live there, and of all of the starving Venezuelans – still being crushed by the world oil economy. But the most striking response we ever get back at home is, “gas only cost thirty cents a gallon?!?!”

Over the time that you have been cruising has the world of cruising changed?

Venezuela seems to no longer be an option for cruisers. It is now the world's largest remaining oil reserve – and an economic war zone.

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

People that tell us, “it must be nice to live like you do.” They say it as if they themselves have somehow been cursed. It drives us crazy how people complain about their hectic lives in America. They often hear only what they want to from our stories. We fish. We swim in paradise. We drink cocktails at every sunset.

After meeting so many happy families that live in palm thatched huts with dirt floors – people that swim in the oceans, eat fresh food out of the jungle, and breathe the fresh air – it's really hard to listen attentively to some our friends or relatives complaining incessantly about the horrible complications of their material worlds.

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

So I hear you guys have started a YouTube channel, what do you hope to achieve?

We'd like to share what we've learned in the last twelve years of our sailing experience and inspire others to follow their dreams. Currently we are completely overhauling/reconstructing our boat to outfit it for travel to colder climates. It has always been our ambition to travel to the edge of the icepack to see with our own eyes how the world is being changed. We'd like to take anyone else interested in the conversation about the future along for the ride in hopes of increasing awareness of the current situation. Come along for the ride at Sailing Tranquility Bay