25 September 2017

10 Questions for Amarula

Eric (Captain - Australia) and Lynne (First Mate - England/Australia) began cruising in 2002 aboard Amarula, a 60' Crowther Catamaran hailing from Gibraltar that they build themselves.

They left Australia, cruising across the Indian Ocean to Tanzania. They stayed in Tanzania for 5 years doing charters and running a business. They visited countries along the African coast during that time. They left Tanzania for South Africa, eventually crossing the Atlantic to Brazil. They spent the next 4 years cruising up and down the Eastern Caribbean before sailing through Bonaire and Curacoa, and Columbia to Panama. After transiting the Panama Canal, they spent last season cruising across the Pacific to Fiji where they are currently.

They say: "We met in Dar es Salaam in 1993 where Eric was operating his prawn trawler (designed, built and owner operated) and Lynne went to teach at the International School of Tanganyika. Eric's dream had always been to build a yacht and sail around the world, to which Lynne responded "I'll be your crew!

We built our catamaran and launched her in July 2001 on the Clarence River, NSW, Australia. After a shake down cruise to Sydney for New Year & the fireworks, we set sail from Yamba, NSW in April 2002 around to Darwin, from where we began our circumnavigation in May 2002. We are still - very slowly - making our way around the world!"

You can learn more about their cruise on their website.

Having cruised both the Atlantic and the Pacific, how do they compare? 

We have cruised the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic and the Pacific. There is little comparison for me (Lynne), as the Indian Ocean was my first experience of an ocean crossing back in 2002. There were 5 of us onboard and we took 2 months from Darwin to Dar es Salaam, with a few short stops en route at Cocos Keeling, Chagos and Seychelles. We were on a mission to get back to Dar es Salaam, where we already had a few charter bookings lined up. But I LOVED being out on the open ocean, especially at night on my own in the wheelhouse or sitting out on deck enjoying the moon and the stars and complete serenity. We were fortunate with the weather! In fact, we motored miles north of our rhumbline looking for wind and at times just enjoyed floating at sea, swimming in the middle of the ocean thousands of miles away from anywhere.

We crossed the Atlantic from Walvis Bay, Namibia to Cabadelo, Brazil via a 6 day stopover in St. Helena in February/ March 2012. This time our only crew was our 2 Jack Russells, who did extremely well on their first ocean passage. We generally had reasonable winds and enjoyed a mostly downwind sail, thankfully avoiding the doldrums that a number of our fellow passage-makers 100 or so miles north of us lamented about daily on the morning radio net. We easily got into the groove of the passage and had no major dramas, but boy oh boy were the dogs happy when we finally made landfall in Brazil after 28 days at sea!

Meanwhile our Pacific crossing was easily the most challenging, perhaps because it is the most recent of our ocean crossings. We had an extra crew member, which especially helped with the night watches, but the first part of the sail towards the equator and the Galapagos was painfully slow. The grib files showed wind to the south of us and every time we started sailing towards it, it shifted further south. Remembering our Indian Ocean passage and the many hours of motoring, still failing to find the elusive wind, we spent some days just drifting and playing water frisbee with the dogs! As we struggled with either no wind or heavy squalls we were receiving emails from friends less than 100 miles south of us who were having a fantastic sail averaging 7 knots! Unfortunately, when we finally did get some wind the mainsheet block failed through crevice corrosion resulting in a ripped mainsail, then a few days later the block on our spinnaker snapped and our brand new spinnaker came tumbling down. This left us down to our 2 trusty headsails and we still had over 2000 miles to sail...... Add to this an almost complete lack of fish (4 in total in a 5 week passage!) and I can safely say we were all ready to set foot on land in the Marquesas!

Another thing we have noticed in the Pacific is that the weather forecasts have been invariably wrong and the winds have almost always been stronger than predicted, often from a completely different direction (see the answer below on danger)

Share a piece of cruising etiquette    

Maintain a good look out at all times and keep your radio on. Be ready to assist fellow cruisers and seafarers. We often came across fishermen as we cruised the Tanzania coastline who needed some kind of assistance, such as a tow due to broken outboard motors etc. On one occasion when we were heading to southern Tanzania for a bathymetric survey to study the reefs around Songo Songo island as part of the environmental impact study for the gas pipeline project, we stopped at Okuza island for a walk. We came across a huddled group of fishermen whose livelihood was catching and drying octopus. We soon discovered that they were stranded without water, as their supply boat hadn't shown up. As we had a watermaker onboard we offered to fill some jerry cans for them and immediately they came running over with at least 20x20 litre drums! We gave them over 200 litres of water and took one of them to the next island south where he was able to get further assistance. More recently, here in Fiji, a cruiser had run onto a reef and put out a Mayday call. We were about 5NM away at the time and changed course so we could assist.

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

Because we built our catamaran for chartering we were talked into installing a dishwasher and a bar fridge, neither of which we ever used, so they became storage areas and we eventually gave them away in Africa and built in some large storage drawers instead. When we had a charter and wanted cold drinks we kept them in a cooler box on deck with ice blocks which we rotated from our freezer. As we had been based for a number of years in Tanzania prior to building the boat, we built Amarula as a stand-alone operation to operate as a charter vessel.

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

Eric: Max. 45'. Priority of importance: 2 oversize anchors with minimum 100 metres chain and good anchor winch plus extra rode, robust auto helm, fish finder with portable hand-held depth sounder (Hondex PS-7), plenty of solar and wind to run large fridge/ freezer, good sail wardrobe (including headsail, staysail, mainsail, code zero/ spinnaker), enclosed cockpit/ wheelhouse for comfortable cruising in all weather, good stowage, Hard bottom dinghy with mimimum 9.8HP for river and reef exploration trips.

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore? 

With just 2 of us we tend to do 3 - 4 hour watches usually starting around 1900 - 2300 (Lynne), 2300 - 0300 (Eric), 0300 - 0600 (Lynne), 0600 ~ (Eric). On the few occasions where we have had extra crew on long passages we do 3 hour watches.

Have you ever felt in danger and if so, what was the source?  

On passage we have generally picked our weather windows well and been fortunate to have some excellent downwind runs. On a couple of occasions we have run into unpleasant squalls of 40+ knots or so. For example, despite all the forecasts showing light winds from the NW we hit 40 knot squalls from the SE when we were heading from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus in French Polynesia and had to heave to for a few hours - our first time ever. Back in 2002 we did a marine research charter to Aldabra and Cosmoledo islands in the Seychelles and we found ourselves sailing/ motoring head on into the first named cyclone to form above 10 degrees south and we took a battering. Unfortunately, we didn't have the luxury of being in a position to plan this passage, as this was a commercial charter that we had committed to. It also demonstrates the importance of timing your passages.

As for other kinds of dangers, when we were at anchor in Taganga Bay, Colombia, in November 2015, we were unfortunately boarded by armed pirates and robbed at gun & knife point. Meanwhile, we spent many years cruising up and down the coast of East Africa without any unpleasant incidents and in fact we had some of our most memorable experiences in that region.

How much does cruising cost?    

Again, this is a question that every cruiser would have a different answer for. Some people do it on an absolute shoe string budget never eating or drinking ashore at bars and restaurants, never taking tours or hiring cars or staying in marinas, others go all out and use cruising as a way to travel from country to country and base there, then experience just about everything that country has to offer including staying in marinas, going on shore based excursions etc. When we closed off our business in Tanzania and set off cruising we had a very healthy stock market portfolio and felt ready to take on the world and see and experience each new country to the max. In our first couple of years cruising during the GFC, we lost a huge portion of our portfolio and have been shoestring cruisers ever since! However we have had many incredible experiences and have met some fantastic people.

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

Go with the wind. Relax and enjoy, rather than try to rush to meet schedules and be prepared to change your plans. We also really enjoy exploring anchorages off the beaten track and especially meeting and getting to know local people.

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

There are so many reasons. Probably the most common being age/ health/ mobility issues, finances, time for a new challenge, end of a circumnavigation and grandchildren coming along! One thing we have noticed is that many cruisers go on to become land cruisers. Perhaps we will in the not too distant future...... But one idea that we are tossing around, now that we're almost done with cruising and much closer to home is to offer 'educational retreats' onboard for wannabe/ soon to be offshore cruisers - a kind of 'try before you buy' situation where people can come and test out the lifestyle, ask questions, learn the ropes so to speak - we'd love to hear from anyone who may be keen to try something like this and we can be contacted via our website.

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

Eric: Would you circumnavigate again? Yes!

Lynne: Would you like to continue living this lifestyle? Absolutely!