27 November 2017

10 Questions for Louise

Jessie Zevalkink & Katie Smith cruised from 2012 - 2014 aboard SV Louise, a Cal 27. They spent that time on a 6000 mile journey through the rivers of America, around Florida, Bahamas, Eastern seaboard, Hudson River, Erie Canal, Trent-Severn, and the Great Lakes*. Jessie is currently cruising again on a different boat with a different crew. She and her fiancé recently sailed her father's boat from Michigan to England.

You can learn more about their journey on their website or by sending her an email.

*Editor's Note: Because of my own interest in her adventure, I asked Jessie to participate despite the fact that she has not (yet) been cruising outside of her home country for more than two years (an IWAC requirement).

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy? 

When curious cruisers try to have a conversation while you are attempting to dock and get properly tied up : ) I always need to concentrate, just give me 5 minutes and you will have my full attention! I hate when I come off short, or uninterested which tends to happen when you are in the middle of taking care of your boat. It's a silly pet peeve because typically cruisers are just excited and/or there to help you out, but for some reason I am horrible at multi-tasking in this department.

What do you enjoy about cruising that you didn't expect to enjoy?

The silence. I am a busy body. A people person. I thrive on company, social settings, and strangers. However I am quite an introvert, my creativity in writing and photography doesn't occur until it's silent, not until I am in a place where I can tune everything else out. I'd never written a page in my life, and all the sudden, I was writing every single day. Thinking in ways I've never thought before.

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

To trust yourself. To know your boat and know yourself. How other people do things might not be the way you should do things. I trusted everyone else before myself when we left for America's Great Loop. It was as if everyone held all the knowledge aside from me, we had a really hard time making our own decisions. What we eventually learned was that every single cruiser has a different boat, different perspectives, different abilities, and different experiences... different taste buds per se. You have to learn not to be a follower.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?

Katie and I were essentially camping. No fridge, freezer, shower, ac, heat, internet, running water, hot water, working toilet, microwave, etc... the list goes on and on. We wore head lamps when the sun went down, slept with the cat and dog in the v berth to stay warm, and washed everything in the salt water.  In the moment... gosh... we wish we had all of the above luxuries. In retrospect I wouldn't have done a thing differently. I grew up well off in suburb where everyone smiled, waved, the trees were bright green and kids drove Mercedes in high school. The greatest thing I've ever done for myself is choose live for 2 years going to the bathroom in a bucket and removing every single convenience I unconsciously grew up with.

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

My favorite thing about Louise was her simplicity. When your neighbors water maker or ice maker breaks  its the end of the world... and your sitting there enjoying every sip of a warm Budweiser... you can't help but get a kick out of it. Our problems were small in comparison to others. Again, in the moment our problems felt big, in retrospect, we were perfectly fine the entire time. My least favorite thing about our boat... I admit to being one for aesthetics, color schemes, balance and organization. Pour little Louise had the worst combination of colors and patterns. Her hull was ivory, buffed and shiny in a few areas, dull and scratched in others. Her boot stripe burgundy or brown depending on who you ask. Her main sail cover bright blue. Her bimini "burgundy" in attempt to match the boot stripe. Her deck cream. Her inside cushions dĂ©cored in a late 70's plaid. I can't say she was easy on the eyes. But it didn't matter.

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

I remember reading about all the things you "MUST HAVE-OR ELSE", hearing about all the things "YOU NEED-OR YOU WILL DIE". From water-makers to radars, to guns and trackers. I struggled with this in the beginning as I mentioned before, I trusted others' experiences and knowledge before my own. What I found to be true... is that need nothing aside from something that floats and an adventurous soul. We picked up twin sisters on the Mississippi River who had kayaked in their tandem kayak from rivers headwater. They were on their way to Mardi Gras. They had 40 bucks, a bag full of Oreo's, some Cool-aid and a tent. Our boat was a castle to them.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why? 

I have to say the Bahamas and not necessary because of it's obvious beauty and culture. The magic in the Bahamas came from how long it took us to get there. It took us over 6 months to get to an island that is 51 miles away from America. An island that you can hop on a ferry or plane only to arrive in a matter of hours. Everything feels, looks, sounds, tastes and smells completely different when you are travel as slowly as we did. It was the greatest reward having made it there. We arrived with no plans and 3 months before hurricane season. We wanted to stay forever. Every person was a story. Every island was your own. Every meal eaten was the greatest on earth. We worked hard to be there, it brought a level of appreciation that could not have been discovered in any other fashion.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette?

Be careful how to give new cruisers advice. Be open to where they are coming from. New cruisers are timid, they have a lot to learn. What they need is to be built up, to be encouraged, to feel like they can do it just like you. Don't scare them with you own challenging experiences. Share with them how you got through it and why it ended up being your greatest story.

How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving? 

How does one gain experience without experiencing ? One might ask. We got our experience on-the-go. We were conservative and patient about it. We knew we were slightly naive. We knew we did not have the experience. It kept us cautious but was never  a road block.

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

We are a society relying on instant everything. Instant oatmeal. Instant news. Instant social media. Instant responses. Instant coffee. Instant connection. Instant cameras in our pockets. The list is disgustingly never-ending. Saying it's hard to slow down is an understatement. I can barely go to the bathroom without my phone anymore. We get bored quickly and need some kind of instant-fix. I don't think most people really understand what it is like to travel at 5 mph for two years. 

The question to be asked should be "What is it like to step away and slow down for two years... like really slow down?" The answer is long, and I've written an article about it that I would like to share. This article encompasses every reason why I would do it again, and why I will forever be an advocate for cruising America's Great Loop.