23 April 2018

10 Questions for Maple

Darryl, Janet, Ella (11 in 2017) and Iris (7 in 2017) began cruising in 2015 aboard Maple, a Leopard 384 hailing from Vancouver, Canada.

They say: We had planned to start out in the Caribbean as that's where we thought we'd buy our boat, turns out that this particular type of Catamaran sold at a significant discount in the Mediterranean, so in the end, we started out in Greece.  We spent 18 months in the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean in Jan 2017.  We'll be in the Caribbean for another season, and are planning to go through the Panama Canal on our way to the Pacific in early 2019. Our plans are to circumnavigate, as slowly as we feel like and we'll keep moving towards that goal as long as we're having fun.  If the kids need us to stop for some reason we may take a short break though ultimately I'd prefer not to ever go back to work, but we're trying to play it by ear.

You can read more about their journey on their blog.

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

Solar Panels - we installed these within months of moving aboard and have 1140W of power to work with.  Ultimately we do not need to rely on any outside sources of power for our lifestyle and do not have a generator on board, yet still are able to run the fridge, a 30L/hr watermaker, 3 computers, 3 ipads and all the boating related electrics.

Watermaker - this was a huge addition just before we cross the Atlantic and has gone a long way to making us completely self-sufficient.  Being able to make water and not rely on dock water, or jerry jugs is fantastic.  We have a Schenker Smart30 watermaker which is a European energy recovery type watermaker very similar in design to the Spectra but at a more wallet-friendly price point.  So far it has proven an incredibly reliable and robust system.  We opted for a fully manual version to avoid the additional potential of a computer failure.

Washing machine - this is a total luxury that has changed our willingness to wash sheets, towels, and other clothes.  Doing laundry in a bucket is possible, but not fun.  About 8 months ago I (Darryl) installed a Daewoo mini washing machine that is bulkhead mounted taking up about 60cm (length) x 60cm (height) x 40cm (depth) in one of our heads.  It uses about 100W of power and 24L of water per load and makes laundry a dream.  Well worth it.  Of note, it is a 220V appliance which is fine as our inverter is 220 and we've got European wiring but something to keep in mind.

Rocna 33kg & 100M of 10mm chain- This one lets me sleep at night.  Like most, we're cruising on a limited budget (and we're trying to limit it more) so we want to anchor out whenever we can.  Our original Delta 25kg and 40M of 8mm chain weren't doing it so this upgrade was a must that has more than paid for itself.  The Rocna (like most new generation anchors) performs well in many different bottoms and holds like it means it.  We very often need to break it out with our engines because it buries itself so well.

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 the boat had the ability to point upwind better.  We bought a cruising catamaran so of course, we knew that upwind performance would suffer, but I don't think we really knew what that meant until we tried several days of sailing upwind finding that pinching at greater than 50 degrees results in an abundance of leeway which almost cancels out any extra angle on the wind.  As they say, you can't have it all.

I wish that the boat did not have the current forepeak cabins.  Our forward berths (we have a four cabin cat) have extra "crew" berths in the extreme forepeak, these are narrow triangle shaped areas at the extreme bouncy end of the boat.  We had thought our girls would use this space for playing, reading and storing stuff but the space is poorly used if at all and would better serve as sail lockers, not an easy conversion and challenging to pull off without a conversion, given that access is over top of the children's bunks and I can't imagine ever getting away with dragging a wet spinnaker or fenders across their beds.

Where was your favorite place to visit and why? 

There are so many places. 

In the Med we loved loved loved Greece and Turkey.  The people and fresh produce in Turkey cannot be beaten, genuinely interested in you and your adventures the locals we met were ready to take you into their homes and share their lives with you moments after meeting.  In Greece, the choice of island anchorages and the incredible food were things that kept us there for much of our time in the Med.  These two are definitely the places we'd go back to (though Venice canals in a dinghy are pretty cool). 

In the Caribbean, the tiny island of Dominica is heaven on earth.  The people are friendly and the landscape is incredible.  Lush jungle tumbling down steep hillsides to collide at the bottom with freshwater pools fed by cascading waterfalls, it's like something out of Robinson Caruso.  Unfortunately, Dominica was hammered by hurricane Maria this fall and the jungle vegetation was a bit torn up, but we understand that the greenery has made a comeback and the fresh tropical fruits and veg that the island is known for are in abundance again.  Bonaire is a close runner-up in our minds as that's where Janet, Ella and I learned to scuba dive.  The reefs there are incredible and the water is so clear that you can almost count individual grains of sand on the bottom from your cockpit in the mooring field.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

The heat.  Coming from Canada I expected to love the heat of the tropics and I do, but it doesn't always agree with me.  Heat rash is a normal occurrence for me and my youngest, Iris.  That said, we manage and wouldn't trade it for snow and freezing weather.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?

So many.  Like most, we went too far too fast.  Looking at a globe before setting out I thought that we'd be able to cover much more distance than we could.  When we tried, we broke things, we got frustrated and we hated it.  When we slowed down, things got better fast.  We didn't budget enough for outfitting the boat either, which means we spent a lot \more in the first couple of years than we expected to.  We're on year 3 now and trying to make sure we stay on budget.  It's not easy in the Med or the Caribbean as they're both expensive places to cruise, but it can be done.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?

The cruising community is incredible.  Without fail we have me generous, friendly, helpful and caring people from around the globe.  When a cruiser is in trouble, others offer help freely and without expectation of compensation.  We have so many solid friendships with other cruisers and we feel blessed to have met them.

What do you think is a common cruising myth?

The Caribbean is rife with crime.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While cruising in the Med we never locked our hatches when we left the boat, and never locked our dinghy.  Before crossing to the Caribbean we heard constant messages from various sources about how dangerous the Caribbean was.  We were told that we had to lock our hatches when we left the boat and when we were sleeping (note: doing so is impractical unless you want to drown in your own sweat while you roll around sleepless) and that if we left our dinghy unlocked it would disappear.  We were told that we should beware interacting with locals who dinghy up to our boat with local goods to sell because they might be casing the boat for a later theft, or might board brandishing machetes.  None of this has turned out to be true.  People in the Caribbean are inevitably friendly and curious about what we're doing.  To be sure, many of them have much much less than even the poorest cruisers, but that does not make them thieves, and while I can't deny that crime occurs, as we all know from the media, it occurs everywhere and to state that the Caribbean is any less safe than your hometown would be a gross inaccuracy.  We have felt safe and comfortable everywhere we have gone - don't buy into the culture of fear around yacht crime.

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

I love telling people that we had never sailed before we left - after they pick up their jaws, I clarify.  Janet and I both took Basic Cruising Standard from the CYA in Vancouver (a total of about 24 hours on the water) and also took a 5-day intensive Intermediate Cruising Standard from the CYA in Vancouver (5 days liveaboard training).  Neither of these courses took us out of sight of land (in fact we could have swum to shore at any given time).  Fortunately for us we started out in the Med where there are many many many safe harbours and short day sails to learn.  There also are no consistent wind patterns so we had to learn all points of sail.  Spending 18 months in all conditions (from 0 knots wind to 35+ knots upwind in 2-3M seas) gave us confidence that we could handle the downwind passage from the Canaries to the Caribbean.  We now have more than 10000 miles under our belts and while I still wouldn't brave Cape Horn I'm pretty sure I can handle the typical coconut milk run circumnavigation. 

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

Cruisers (and others) that measure other people and cultures against the standards of their own lives and culture.  We are traveling to learn, experience and understand how others live their lives around the world.  Doing so requires us to understand and accept the paradigm that they live under.  Assessing other cultures against the standards of what is acceptable or desirable in our culture doesn't allow us to appreciate how other people live, and why they make the choices they do.  We wrote about this a bit on our blog. 

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

What advice would you give someone dreaming about going?  

I would tell them to go, go as soon as they could because you don't know if you'll always have the chance.  I would also tell them to get the smallest vessel they could be physically comfortable in.  We have seen many cruisers who bought more boat than they needed for different reasons and most of them are unhappy with the lifestyle.  The cost of maintaining boats increases exponentially with size, everything is bigger and more expensive.  We have shared anchorages with 200+ foot super yachts and with 20-foot sailboats, and we all have the same sunsets, blue water, and white beaches to wake up to.