20 November 2017

10 Questions for Golden Glow

Rand and Ellen began their current cruise in 2014 aboard SV Golden Glow, an Antares 44i hailing from Rancho Santa Fe, California, USA

They sailed down the east coast of the US to the Caribbean, south to Grenada, back up to Bermuda and across the North Atlantic to Med where they sailed through the Aegean, Adriatic and Libyan seas as far east as Turkey. They then crossed back across the Atlantic through the Caribbean and Panama to the South Pacific Islands where they are currently.

Readers can learn more about their cruise on their blog, Facebook, or via email.

They say: "We are enjoying a mobile home tour and global romp through the mid latitudes of our fine planet while we are still young enough to do it as a couple. We love laughter, beach fires, good stories and having our kids join us on adventures."

What was the most affordable area to cruise in your trip and the most expensive?

Turkey was the most affordable and high-end resort areas like St Barts, Mustique, Capri & the Amalfi coast, Santorini in Greece, and the Costa Smeralda of Sardinia were most expensive. When you see a helicopter parked by the pool on the deck of the boat next to you, expect prices to be scaled accordingly.

Generally the least expensive is where there are no stores and tourist locations to visit.  Living off the land like remote locals is very close to free.  The eastern Mediterranean (Turkey and to a lesser extent Greece) in 2015/16 offered food at a 20-30% discount of that of western Europe and the strong dollar offered another 30% discount.  Gibraltar is amazing on fuel and booze.  French Polynesia the locals offer fruit from their land for free and in some Tuamotu atolls we and others were given lobster for free or in exchange for a couple limes.

The most affordable places we’ve cruised have at least a few of the following criteria:

  • Where there is low to no tourism or tourism is not a major industry. Living, eating and socializing as locals v.s. tourists is culturally rich and financially prudent.  
  • Where the food you chose to eat is grown locally and services are taught locally.  Buying imported food or services is normally more expensive. 
  • Where we do not need to do boat work, the boat can be a major part of a budget. 
  • Where our US dollars have the best conversion ratio into the local currency. A strong dollar can create a 20-40% discount.
  • Where your are able to speak the language. Negotiating in a foreign language is a tad more difficult. 

Marina and mooring fees in some countries (Montenegro, Croatia, Italy) can add a lot to the budget. We prefer to anchor in less crowded anchorages.  Where there is a nature reserve the extra fees can be well worth it: Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, Madalenas of Sardinia, Tobago Cays in the Grenadines, San Blas in Panama, the extra fees are well worth it.  Even when grabbing a dock, most places will negotiate rates if they are not full. It helps to know the rates of the closest discount marina when negotiating.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette

Boating is steeped with traditions and etiquette. Where to start? Racing a dingy by a boat filled with white dressed, red wine holding cocktailers? Turning on your generator just as the sun is setting next to the couple meditating on the front deck next to you? Partying until sunrise with music blaring next to the boat that just crossed 2000 miles and have not slept a full night in several weeks?  Running a mooring line from each side of your boat so it can quietly saw through the mooring leaving it ready to fail for the next boat?   or  Waiting until neighbors are enjoying a swim in the crystal clear waters to discharge your black water?

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

Even if it’s biodegradable, if it floats (citrus peels, fruit, crew members), don’t dump it overboard unless you’re well off shore. If it is plastic, or has plastic in it, NEVER dump it overboard.

What is your most common sail combination on passage?

We run an in-mast furled main sail and two furled head sails (Genoa and Screecher/Code Zero) that all get a lot of action. Direct downwind, wing-on-wing with Code 0 and Asymmetrical spinnaker or Genoa, depending on wind speed. We also love the Parasailor for effortless downwind sailing over a broader wind angle, though the combination of wing-on-wing headsails and or asymmetrical spinnaker tends to be faster for us.

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

That we would sink to the bottom of the sea or be eaten by sharks or shot and raped by pirates. Most likely all of the above.  That and cruising was really just working on a boat in beautiful places. We are still afloat and while we've swum with sharks and looked for pirates, neither has taken an interest in us yet. What we have found is that if you are disciplined and work on your boat on a daily basis, you can reasonably take at least one day a week to enjoy the adventure.

We were also slow to embrace having an in-mast furling system, but now we are converted.  It offers flexibility of partial reefs, ability to reef single handed (more sleep for crew) and the safety of not having to go on deck in rough seas.  Unless we were racing, we would not go back.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

My concentration, when I smell Ellen cooking something exotic, seems to break, but generally, if we have items break too often, we change manufacturers (my brain excepted). The Rule Bilge Pumps are pretty consistent in their sporadic life span given the little that they actually run. We also have a Sea Recovery Watermaker that was pure joy for a bit. It has a steel valve (Danfoss) that fails due to rust (must have been designed for saltwater during the pre-stainless era). We engineered a manual valve workaround that has eliminated any failures in the last year.

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

What we like best about the Antares 44i is how well designed it is as a blue water cruising yacht for a couple on a global adventure. The comfort and safety of Antares’ protected helm is something we both appreciate, especially now that we’ve crossed many oceans and put in so many offshore miles in all kinds of weather.  The Antares’ beautiful Brazilian cherry woodwork inside is so much warmer and more luxurious than we found on most of the other cats we looked at. From the shaft drives to dual Racors, we are very happy with Antares.

We also had a sunbrella cover made that turns the foredeck into an additional covered living’ “spa" space. It covers the trampolines, including a hammock, inflatable couches and doubles as a theater. It also allows us to keep our forward  hatches open in the rain. We cannot overstate how nice it is to not have to get up to close hatches during a late night squall. The theater is created with some projection screen fabric on the underside of the sunbrella and a set of blue tooth motorcycle speakers that offer surround sound when mounted on the pulpits and salon roof.

This turns Golden Glow into a big screen movie theatre. Butter up the popcorn.

Our beds are incredibly comfortable and our cabin is just the right combination of cozy and airy…we sleep better on our boat than anywhere else in the world.

Our least favorite thing is that we did not take the time for extended sailing 20 years sooner. We have a big family and were busy raising our children and getting them prepared for adulthood. Now we wish we’d spent more of their formative years sailing the world with them.  The least favorite thing about our boat -  when we gather together as a family (all ten of us), we could use a dozen more cabins - and perhaps a crew to handle all the cooking and cleaning while the family plays together.

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

I wish we had done more video while talking ‘into' the camera so we had footage not just showing where we were, but of our own personal observations and expressions as we shared what we have seen. We have thousands of photos and videos of the places we have been, far less of ourselves narrating and laughing into the camera.

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

With a sturdy, well-built boat, we know the weather conditions we can handle. And with modern weather forecasting, especially with the easy downloading of forecasts anywhere in the world using our Iridium GO & SSB, we can pretty much avoid worse weather than we are comfortable with.

Bad people on the other hand can show up anywhere. The crime of certain places (ie. Caribbean, Colon/Panama, Tahiti/Bora Bora) takes some of the joy out of free and easy life style we look for in cruising.  We are fortunate to have a boat that will always get to the other side of an ocean, and a great alarm system on the boat to warn of bad guys. We just have to not fall off or let bad people on. We have only had to confront someone once in our 30.000 mi. and that was a minor event.
We spent a lot of time in Turkey in 2015 and 2016. We even flew into Istanbul in late June 2016 and walked through the exact path that was tragically blown up four days later by a terrorist's bomb. So it is noteworthy that we remember Turkey as one of our very favorite places to live and sail, not just for its beauty, delicious food, fascinating history and culture, but mostly for its lovely people. We experienced overwhelming warmth and kindness from all the Turkish people we met and we felt very safe in the small towns and along the beautiful extended coastline that is ideal for sailing.  I imagine the people have not changed much in a few years, though the politics seem to.

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

What are your favorite toys on your boat?

We love our toys and tools of our global adventure. We chose to bring inflatable sailing kayak and an inflatable paddle board.  We also carry surfboard, caving, climbing, tennis rackets, yoga mats, hiking gear, fold-up bicycles, cards, a backgammon board, drone quadcopter and many beach games and toys.  I wish we had started kite boarding earlier as that seems to be a great combination of what works while cruising

What recommendations would you offer new cruisers?

In addition to paper charts and pilots carry a collection of electronic charts. We use multiple electronic charts on no fewer than 3-5 devices (iPad, iOS and Android phones, Mac and PC) in addition to our Furuno chart plotter. For areas like the South Pacific where traditional charts can be very inaccurate it is essential to familiarize yourself with navigation tools that bring in satellite imagery such as OpenCPN, Google Earth (and Tallon) and SeaClear. Don’t forget to download the offline map detail on your Navionics/Boating app while you still have internet and to zoom into the routes, some reefs will not show up unless you are zoomed in to less than 20-30 miles zoom. This is quite a small area when doing a 1000+ mile passage.

Get the most powerful and highest efficiency solar you can fit on your boat. We also like our quiet D400 Wind generator to give us a boost, especially at night on anchor. It is a sweet thing to have more ice than your can use because you have more electricity than you need.  Blended frozen drinks are a wonderful thing.

Compare the Iridium Go, Delorme and other satellite options before purchasing. We use SSB, Iridium Go, Delorme and have used FleetBand / KVH.  There is a large price and performance variance.

Be sure you have an iPad or tablet with as much storage as you can afford. Among the apps we use every day are:
 - Weather: Weather 4DPro, Windity, Squid Mobile, PredictWind Offshore;
 - Navigation: Boating/Navionics, iNavx, MasSea/Nobeltec, Earthmate;
 - Anchor Watch: Anchor Alarm;
 - Constellations: Night Sky, Star Chart, Moon Plus, SkyView Free;
 - Learning - Knots Guide, BoatingCalcs;
 - Opera Mini for going online using less data;
 - Tides, currents: Aye Tides XL;
 - Tracking friends: Marine Traffic;
 - TripAdvisor before you pull into a new place;
 - Communications back home: Viber, Skype, Hangouts
 - Security:  a VPN like Private Tunnel , we also use this to look like we are in the USA to be able to do things online like pay your property taxes, download a kindle book, etc. that might be blocked from other countries.

We know communications can be a challenge when you’re sailing from country to country, and in diverse parts of the world, how do you make it work, and what tips can you share?

We will never take fast, easy internet for granted again. Or underestimate how much ease and convenience internet connectivity gives us, or how much we use it for. Google Fi improved our lives a lot when we switched from our old cell phone carrier to it. Before Fi, we had the choice of either paying ridiculous charges on our international plan, or we would have to go into each new country and get outfitted with a new sim card and a mobile plan before we could be connected. Google has relationships around the world - and throughout the USA - so that your phone picks up and connects, very cost effectively, to the local carrier wherever you are. No more Sim cards. No more wasting a day just getting connected. Having cell connectivity and data as you approach a new country by sea is marvelous. In places like the Mediterranean or the Caribbean where you may go back and forth from country to country as you sail, google Fi’s system is effortless. It doesn’t work everywhere yet, but it’s still been a huge improvement and time saver for us.

Beyond Google Fi, we also rely on our Rogue Wave wifi booster and our cell phone booster which are invaluable at giving us the strongest connectivity possible from the boat, even when we’re many miles offshore.

Our Iridium Go gives us good connectivity when we can’t connect to wifi or cell. We use it for texts and email, weather downloads and news.

13 November 2017

10 Questions for Jacaranda

Co-captains Chuck Houlihan & Linda Edeiken began their current cruise in 2005 on SV Jacaranda, an Allied 39 hailing from San Diego, CA, USA.

They have remained in the Pacific on this cruise, heading south and then west: Mexico (for 7 years), Central America, Ecuador, Panama, Galapagos, French Polynesia.

Previous to this cruise in the 1990's Chuck sailed Jacaranda from Mexico to Australia taking 6 years. In the 1970's Chuck crewed with his sister and her husband on a Lapworth 36 called “Gambit” in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga.

Readers can learn more about their cruise on their blog.

They say: "Both of us are very avid travelers who have done extensive independent world travel before meeting each other. Besides sailing we continue to enjoy land journeys. Linda chronicles our experiences in “Passage Notes” on our website. She includes helpful details about places to stay, places to eat, travel routes, etc. for those wanting more details in “Trip Reports”.  Chuck is retired from the IT business but Linda continues to do her art and jewelry on the boat."

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

There are significant differences from when Chuck started cruising 40 years ago.  Back then boats were much smaller and mostly monohulls; 35 feet would have been one of the larger boats whereas today it would be one of the smaller ones in a fleet comprised more and more of catamarans.   Huge changes in navigation and communication have also occurred.  Chuck first cruised using a sextant and thought he had died and gone to heaven when sat nav was introduced.  He relied heavily on paper charts.  In addition,  we now cruise with GPS and Google earth charts (OpenCPN, GE2KAP, SASPlanet) which are incredible. As a consequence of GPS opening the way, many places that were remote are now full of cruising boats. Today it is harder to get off the beaten path - you still can but you have to try harder and go further.

Fewer boats are cruising with SSB radios which means the cruiser nets that have been so important for socializing, information exchange, and safety tracking are declining in value.  More boats are substituting satellite systems. Cruisers with ham radio licenses are going the way of the dinosaurs.

The connectedness of programs like sailmail, winlink, and satellite systems make staying in touch with friends and family much easier than before. Internet availability seems to be an added criteria for what makes a good anchorage nowadays.

Today, the staggering amount of electronic gear on a cruising boat means more time in port getting things fixed, the need for more charging power and bigger battery banks.

Cruiser attitudes have changed too. The wonderful aspects of camaraderie and helping one another that is a hallmark of this lifestyle still exists. But we sense a decrease in the commitment of giving back to the wider cruising community. Many boats don’t understand the concept of “leaving a clean wake” for others coming behind them, let alone thinking of ways to improve the experience for the next wave of cruisers.

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

Lots of stuff here.

Chuck learned a tip from an old “salt” many years ago about how to discourage gooseneck barnacles from attaching to the hull during long ocean passages by trailing a line from the bow for 30 minutes a day.  He has passed that on to many cruisers doing the Puddle Jump over the years.  That and a number of our little tips for everyday living on the boat can be found on our website in "Other Good Stuff.”

The sun is your worst enemy so be vigilant and proactive.  We cover ourselves as well as anything on deck that can be destroyed by exposure to those harmful rays, even our roller-furler blocks and the handholds on our dinghy.  And don’t leave the covers off your sails - we cringe when a boat sails into an anchorage and leaves the sails exposed to the sun for days.  Check your sail covers by holding them up to the sun - if you can see light coming through then UV's are probably eating up your sails. Time to make new ones. Insist on using Tenera (Gortex) thread for any canvas work. Tenera thread will outlast the material and you will never have to resew. It’s worth the pricey $100/spool cost.

Ever since he purchased Jacaranda 30+ years ago, Chuck has kept a detailed work log, now maintained in an EXCEL spreadsheet.  This has been an invaluable record of when work was done, especially years later when the project has to be redone. It includes details like part numbers, vendor contact info, instructions to himself for removing or repairing gear, plus photos of specific installations step by step.

Install an item with the thought of having to take it out for servicing. This is a hard concept to fathom when the item is new but surely at some point later on you will have to remove it.

Linda keeps a computerized inventory on the boat for food provisioning and for the contents of most lockers.  It is a nuisance to set up initially but she finds it invaluable when you need to locate something.  There is a sample format on our website.

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

  • Running out of money
  • The arrival of grandchildren
  • Physical limitations due to injuries, health or age 
  • Break up of a relationship
  • Caretaker responsibilities for a child, relative or aging parents “back home” 
  • For “kid boats”, schooling needs (most often for an older teen or high schooler)
  • Not enjoying the lifestyle/boredom
  • Fulfillment of a travel/hiatus goal and the desire/need to resume a career

Personally, we say we will be cruising until we are either not having fun any longer or we are too physically challenged to continue.  We have a vision of sitting in our rocking chairs overlooking the sea somewhere at sunset, reminiscing about our cruising days while snacking on the granola bars from our ditch kit.

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

Not really because we always go into a new place with an open attitude of exploring and looking for the best. That said, we were disappointed with Panama City, Panama as a place to stay on a small boat because, surprisingly, we found it very cruiser UNfriendly.  The City and its environs (Casco Viejo, the Canal, rain forest, indigenous communities, etc.) were fascinating and wonderful and we had some fantastic experiences.   However, we felt the lack of good anchorages and adequate facilities for cruisers made it uncomfortable or expensive as a place to be aboard your boat.  This was unexpected since it is so much about ocean-going travel - but the focus is on freighters and expensive motor vessels and small cruising boats seemed to just be tolerated.  We wouldn’t want to go back on Jacaranda but we’d return as a visitor in a heartbeat.

Was there anywhere you visited that you thought was underrated? 

We fell in love with Colombia!  We did not cruise there but flew from Ecuador.  We think it is underrated because, in the minds of many people, its old reputation as a dangerous drug cartel-controlled country has not yet been supplanted by its new reality as a safe place to go.   The people were over-the-top friendly and welcoming.  The variety of landscapes were ecologically diverse and culturally interesting.  Among our favorite experiences were attending the annual Flower Festival in Medellin and seeing the spectacular Caño Cristales (River of 5 Colors).

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

In Chuck’s earlier cruising in the 1990’s, Jacaranda had been well outfitted although pretty basic.   For this current journey, we did a lot of upgrades and we added a windlass, radar, and more substantial autopilot.  Linda’s only request was for a water maker.  In hindsight, we regret removing our hot water heater (we thought we needed the space for the water maker).   Our wish list:  space for a dive compressor and tanks (just no room!), a 60 lb. anchor to replace our 44 lb. Bruce, and a more efficient refrigeration system.  We love our AIS (our most recent installation) and we’ll be investigating lithium batteries in the future.

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

Chuck raced, delivered boats and joined his sister and brother-in-law for a while during their circumnavigation on their Lapworth 36 in the South Pacific in the 1970's.  His advice: Gain sailing experience by racing and as skills build, offer to help deliver boats.  Crewing on different boats with different skippers will teach you a lot - both what to do and what not to do.

Linda was introduced to sailing in her twenties when she visited her parents who had bought a sailboat and went cruising in the Caribbean for two years. However most of her offshore experience was cruising on Jacaranda.  We took a number of extended trips to the Channel Islands (CA) from San Diego during the years before we left to go cruising.

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

Chuck’s first delivery from New Zealand to Sydney in 1977 in the middle of winter (maybe that's why he got the delivery) was a very difficult trip with much heavy weather.  Using a sextant, he was not really sure he was plotting accurate fixes until he closed with Sydney.  The boat leaked like a sieve and was not very seaworthy - while he was not in immediate danger it was not a comfortable trip.

Getting caught in the infamous Queens’ Birthday Storm (NZ to Tonga)  in 1994 was a nightmare.  A Force 12 storm with winds of 70 knots and monstrous 30’ breaking seas, it was extremely dangerous and became the most disastrous storm in NZ rescue history (7 boats abandoned and one boat with crew lost). But he and his crew and Jacaranda came through unscathed. There is a lot of luck in this game :-)

Linda hopes Chuck’s experience will fulfill their quota of dangerous situations so she doesn’t have to ever go through anything like that!

What do you find most exciting about your cruising life?

Our boat is small but our life is big.  The cruising lifestyle is a dream for folks like us who have a love of travel, adventure, sailing, the sea and nature and for whom routine is anathema.  We are excited by:

  • A lifestyle of freedom, independence, daily adventure and open-ended possibilities
  • The joy and “spirituality” of sailing and harnessing the wind.
  • The mobility - freedom to relocate/move our home about.
  • Immersion in and closeness to the natural world, especially the sea - surrounded by “something of the marvelous.”
  • Living like a turtle, traveling the world with your home on your back.
  • Seeing new things with new eyes - experiencing new places, cultures, language, people, traditions, customs in a way that is uniquely possible.
  • The supportive camaraderie of fellow cruisers and the ease of making friends from all walks of life - a diversity of people you would never be exposed to at home.
  • Living with a high degree of self-sufficiency and a small carbon footprint on the world.

We are grateful very day and never lose sight of what a special world it is out here.

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

Irresponsible cruisers who don’t do the right thing, intentionally abuse the rules, and don’t “leave a clean wake”…… people who try to game the system and take advantage of it for their own selfish needs, not realizing that it hurts the cruisers who follow them. Examples are sneaking into a marina when the office is closed to steal water rather than pay for it, not paying a dinghy dock/anchorage fee when they know they are required to because the attendant happens to be absent, stopping in the Galapagos citing a phony mechanical breakdown to buy fuel and avoid paying the initial entry fees, and leaving a marina without paying outstanding bills. This gives cruisers a bad name and often results in boats following behind being dealt with quite differently.

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

We’d like to talk about “giving back” as cruisers.

When your lifestyle is about travel, people you meet and cultures you experience touch your lives and your heart. We have experienced the kindness of people all over the world and so it has become part of our value system to try to reciprocate and contribute to those who we encounter.  “Giving back” or “paying it forward” are concepts that are very dear to us and something that we strive for wherever we go.

We try to give back not only to the people in the countries we visit but also to our own broader cruising community by finding or making opportunities to volunteer to help with our time, skills, or sometimes, money - it can be a family in need, a child who can’t afford school expenses, a community project, a cruiser event, a charitable organization, a cruising family who has lost their boat, or the need for cruiser networking and information.  Chuck enjoys being very active on the cruiser radio nets.

A recent example we are very proud of occurred in the Marquesas Island of Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia.  We became a major sponsor of a new va’a (outrigger canoe) program for younger children on the island and our donation helped the community to purchase two child-sized canoes, paddles, and life jackets.   This early exercise program will give the kids healthier lifestyles and will allow them to be better competitors in the French Polynesia national sport of va’a racing.

06 November 2017

10 Questions for Ronja

Kirsten Folkersen and Per Westergaard have been cruising since 2012 aboard Ronja, a Malö 36 hailing from Thurø, Denmark.

They have cruised from Denmark to the Mediteranean through the standing mast route in Holland and the English Channel. From Le Havre in France they had the mast taken off, and sailed through French rivers and canals to Port St. Louis du Rhone. From there they followed the French coast to Genoa, Italy, and this year to Sicily.

You can learn more about their cruise on their blog or through email.

They say: The first three years of our cruising we both had full time jobs in Denmark and only sailed four weeks each year. When our holidays ran out, we just went into a harbour and asked if they would look after our boat for the next 11 months, until we were back again. And from there we picked up the cruising the next year to new destinations. In 2016 we both retired from our jobs and we are now cruising two-three-four months a year.  

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

The first year we underestimated the effect of the tide, because we were not used to having tide in the inland waters of Denmark. When we reached the German Bight we were appalled by the power of the tide, and more than once we had to redefine our route in order to cope with the tide. The second year we got problems with our Yanmar-motor at the river Marne in France (the propshaft broke). No marine mechanic within hundreds of miles, so we picked a local mechanic specialized in lorries. We never should have done that. A marine mechanic had to do the repair all over the next year. Happily he did this for only a third of the price of the lorry-mechanic in northern France.

What was the most affordable area to cruise in your trip and the most expensive? 

Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France are all affordable countries to visit, when it comes to the price of a berth in a harbour. Going from France to Italy was generally double up on the prices. Italy is hilarious in its pricing, and it is hard to understand the logic in their prices. In Sardinia we paid a record of 153 € for just one night in Porto Cervo. In La Caleta, also in Sardinia, we could moor for free at a certain pier, but if we took water or electricity from that pier, we had to pay 85 €. However the costs of living in general are ok in Italy, and the anchorages are beautiful and free of charges.

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy? 

French harbour captains insisting that you moor stern-to. We prefer to moor bow-to. And French and Italian harbour captains seriously claiming, that they have wifi in their harbour, and carefully print out the code. It is a joke. The wifi in nine out of ten of these harbours are not even close to working.

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

Old age or maladies. The anchor, the mainsail, the whole boat getting too heavy to handle.

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike? 

I like the helpfulness of German and Dutch sailors, when you enter a new harbour. They willingly jump from their own boat to take your lines and help you into your berth. This has occasionally happened in France as well. We still have to experience that kind of hospitality in Italy, but off course we have only been cruising Italy for some three months. We also like the willingness of the cruising community of all countries to exchange hints, experiences, destinations and good advice with one another.

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

I should have installed an AIS and 30 meters of extra chain to the anchor and some solar cells to prolong the energy supply while anchoring. Further I should have invested in an electric motor to pull up the anchor, which would have been a considerate gesture toward my wife and sailing companion, Kirsten.

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 sometimes wish my boat had an extra five feet length, and just as often I wish, that she does not have an extra fire feet length.

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

I am sure, we motor a lot more, than we like to admit. At a certain age you no longer fancy crossing the wind head on, and some of us do not even have the patience to keep on sailing, when the speed drops to less than two knots. Hard to explain why; because most of us do have all the time in the world. We are on the vacation of our life.

What do you miss about living on land? 

Absolutely nothing. In our case this is all about the balance between sea and land. We are cruising the world, but our concept is, that we do it bite by bite. We are not full-year cruisers. Our balance between cruising the world and living in an apartment in Copenhagen is important, and we are pleased even, when we cruise only one third or even one fourth of the year. And we may be even more happy, when we some day cruise more than half of the year.

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

What is the driver behind your wanting to cruise? 

Good question! It’s the adventure of it, the feeling of waking up each morning, and knowing that today you are going to experience something completely new to you, going to a place where you have never been before. It’s also the realization of a lifelong dream growing while we were busy at our jobs and sailing only for weekends and summer holidays in the inland waters of Denmark and Sweden. It’s the simple of life on board a yacht. It’s the time of the hour making no more sense. It’s the closeness to nature. It’s the intimacy. It’s life.

30 October 2017

10 Questions for Delphinius

Paul Thornton, Jayne Eames-Thornton, Lily Eames-Jevons and Sky their dog have been cruising since 2013 aboard SV Delphinus, a Bavaria 44. They started in Croatia, cruising around the Mediterranean for a year before moving through the French Canals up to North France, and around the Baltic. They then sailed to Cape Verde,across the Atlantic, around the Caribbean, and are now on the east coast of Central America. 

Editor's note: Lily, age 12, completed this interview

She says: "We started in 2013, but plan to stop in 2018 and go back to England so I can do my exams. We technically don't have a hailing port. The boat is registered in Hull, Yorkshire, but it's never actually been there. We just keep going, rather than taking our boat back to the UK.  

In 2010, my dad died from a heart problem. A few years later, my mum met Paul, who had been sailing small vessels for a while, but had never actually owned a boat of his own. One day, Mum and Paul went to Scotland for a sailing trip. After that, Paul asked Mum, "Do you want to sail the world with me?"

And that's how it started! Paul sold his house to buy a Bavaria 44 called MyWay, and we flew to Croatia to hop onboard. As we were heading up the French Canal, we renamed our boat "Delphinus", because we're not common cruisers - we are world sailors! ...sort of. We haven't actually made it all around the world yet. But we have made it to the Caribbean Sea from the Adriatic Sea, and Mum and Paul even got married on the Island of Dominica."

You can learn more about their voyage on Lily's Facebook page or blog.

What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking their children cruising? 

Well, first off, don't just think about it! If you have the opportunity standing right in front of you, don't treat it like it's part of the wall. Reach out, hug it tight and don't let go! 

Your kids will thank you for that... as long as you make it fun for them. That's the point of cruising, right? As well is being educational, it's also exciting going to different places and seeing different cultures. "Make it their dream, too" as said in Voyaging with Kids by Behan Gifford, Sara Dawn Johnson and Michael Robertson - which I'd highly recommend all parents read if they're considering taking their kids cruising. It'd loaded with basically everything you could ever need for a successful family cruising trip. Okay, that's a bit of a lie, since you need to learn how to sail first and all, and you can never predict what the weather will be like. So let's just say it gives everything a book about voyaging with kids can offer you. 

What advice would you give to other kids thinking about going cruising?

Enjoy it to the max! You're going on an adventure of a lifetime, so make it feel that way for yourself! Do everything you want to do, and don't look back at the things you've done in the past until you've finished cruising. Then write a book! Write a huge fat hardback of the story of your sailing, and add your favourite pictures to it! That way you can recap on all the exciting thrills you've had - good and bad (you obviously have to be realistic: if cruising was all sunshines and rainbows then everyone would think they could do it!

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

I don't think there is anything. I've been really happy with cruising for the past four years, and I don't think anything anyone could say could improve my lifestyle - now or before. 

Where was your favorite place to visit and why?

I think it has to be Grenada. Like most places I've been to, I only went once. But because we stayed there for six months, I think it's that it became a comfort zone to me. I met so many of my current friends there - and it was just an all-round beautiful island - literally. All the vegetation and historical sites are really interesting to learn about. Grenada also introduced me to some foods I would never have dreamed of eating before. Guava is now my most favourite fruit, and nutmeg my favourite spice. 

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?

I love how I don't think I've ever met a single cruiser who hasn't been kind to us, and after knowing them for a while have become good friends. 

But this has its flaws, which leads me to what I dislike about the cruising culture. There's always going to be a time when you have to part ways with them - whether it's in a week, or a month, or a year. And it hurts, even though you know you can still keep in touch and that you'll probably see them again eventually. 

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

Well, my favourite part is that it's a home you can take anywhere you like in the world (as long as it's linked to oceans, obviously). You don't have to worry about packing things in a suitcase every time you go somewhere, and it can all stay right where it is while you take the boat there. 

On the other hand, it often seems better to stuff your things into a bag rather than having it all lain out when you're about to go on a long passage that's bound to be rough. That's when you gotta stow everything away, and you're never sure whether or not that box of all your craft stuff will tip over if you put it on your shelf behind some nylon strings... that's why I dread coming into my bedroom after a rough passage. 

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

Before we started cruising, I had next to no appreciation in the beauty of nature or history. Nowadays, I love taking my dog for walks through greenery and examining the different agriculture - especially in the fascinatingly colourful tropics. I also love going to museums and reading about the past of all the countries - how Colombia was attacked by English pirates, how they made rum in the 1800s in Grenada, all that. 

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you? 

I started writing a diary before I crossed the Atlantic from Cape Verde to Barbados. Reading back on it now, I'm surprised to see how excited I was to come to the Caribbean. Nowadays, over a year later, I'm just really excited to get away from the tropics. I'm fed up of the heat and beaches I once found gorgeous. Obviously, I'll probably dream of coming back here in the future, but for now, I just wanna see a bit of snow or something!

What do you miss about living on land? 

I miss having familiar grounds to roam around on. I miss going to school, especially since I never got the chance to have the secondary school experience. I miss being able to see my friends whenever I like. 

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

It would've been interesting to answer this question: did cruising change you at all? If so, how?

I'm not sure if this would've applied had I not started sailing, but I do think I've changed since before I began travelling. Before, from what I can remember, I was quite gullible, naïve, attention-hogging and I never used to eat anything that was outside of my comfort zone. Now I've changed, though: I've learned not to take people so seriously (probably from living with Paul for the past four years), I prefer to be the mob rather than the centre of attention, and I eat a lot more things now. So all's a-gooden!

23 October 2017

10 Questions for Fluenta

Max, Elizabeth, Victoria (aged 13), Johnathan (aged 11), & Benjamin (aged 3) Shaw have been cruising since 2012 aboard SV Fluenta, a Stevens 47 hailing from Halifax, NS, Canada.

They left Washing State (USA) heading down the West Coast of US as they described it "with our hair on fire to get to Mexico for two seasons to refit the boat and have a baby (all normal of course)." From Mexico they headed across the South Pacific to New Zealand for two seasons with a season in Fiji in between. This last year they headed from NZ to the North Hemisphere for hurricane season spending time in Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tikopia, Vanuatu now New Caledonia.

Readers can read more about their cruise on their blog.

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

Max:  Spending longer periods in one location rather than trying to see lots of different locations.

Elizabeth: All the cruiser book exchanges - with a baby on my lap for so much of the last three years, I have had lots of time to read!  I also love watching my kids play with kids of all ages, rather than just their own peer group.

Victoria: Talking to grownups from all different backgrounds, they know so much about so many different topics and cooking for all the kids while camping.

Johnathan:  Camping ashore.

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

Max: We expected that we would be able to see more countries in a season.  This turned out not to be true for us, not because of the speed of the boat which is fine but rather our style of traveling is to spend more time in each area we visit.

Elizabeth:  I thought that cruising was an all-or-nothing decision, that we needed to completely sever our ties to "home and stuff", as if we were never coming back.  Once we left, I found that lots of people do some form of 'commuter cruising' where they cruise part of the year and have a land-life for part of the year. Even if I had known about it, this wouldn't have been a workable model for us, as we have gone too far afield to come back to house or job for part of each year, but it would have been nice to have kept a few more mementos of our previous life...

Victoria: That it is easy and is always paradise!!!

Johnathan: Cruisers are always sitting on white beaches.

Benjamin:  I did not conduct a lot of research prior to heading out cruising but it all seems pretty natural as I have been doing it for my whole lifetime.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

Max:  The autopilot - it may not break the most often but it is the most frustrating (the regularity x PITA x expensive product) as it is expensive, the company is a pain to deal with (Navico) and it is awkward to repair at sea.  We have just purchased a massive autopilot drive from another company so once we install it hopefully these problems will decrease in frequency.

Elizabeth:  Everything.  Every single piece of equipment on the boat will fail, or at the least need maintenance, in its own unpredictable turn.  When we left, I understood in theory that things would break now and again, but I really had no idea just how time consuming it would be to keep the equipment on the boat functioning.  Computer/Electronic terminals corrode; plumbing and through-deck fittings leak; the pump to the watermaker, that was just overhauled, will break after only few weeks once civilization has been left for the outer islands; the windlass will whir but the chain won't move while weighing anchor, etc, etc.  It goes on and on, and it seems that the more important a system is, the more likely that it will fail at an inconvenient time.  The only approach to maintaining sanity (IMHO) is to develop a spreadsheet (to track maintenance and plan preventative/cyclical activities), a sense of humour, and a sense of gratitude that the failure happened at this moment, and not at a worse one (ie it is bad for the sink drains to disintegrate and start leaking the day before a planned ocean crossing from Mexico to French Polynesia or Fiji to New Zealand, but it would be worse for them to crack a week later at sea...).   All this being said, there is a fix (either materiel or financial) for pretty much every scenario, and with sufficient redundancy, there are workarounds for most failures.  We have two (or three) ways of doing almost everything (including spare autopilots), and we carry significant volume and weight in spare parts, tools and components, and we exercise our sense of humour regularly.  I think that part of the reason cruisers get together to share stories in their cockpits in the evenings is to remind one another that everyone really is 'in the same boat' and that we are all facing challenges of one kind or another: this is the only way to stay sane!

Victoria: On different years it has been different things but it seems like it is mostly the the fans! the head-torches, the sparker on the stove ( these are the things that bug me the most).

Johnathan:  Autopilot.

Benjamin: Lego.

What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking their children cruising?

Max:  Go cruising ! We did the 21 day passage from Mexico to Marquesas with Benjamin as a four month old.  However, we did realize that a third adult is important for long passages when you have a small child onboard.  Now that the older two kids are a big help crewing and Benjamin is three years old we have not gotten crew for longer passages.

Elizabeth:  Just go!  If you feel the tug to change things up a bit and go travel, then find a way to do it.  The benefits and joys outweigh the drawbacks.  As a whole, cruising kids are a delightful group.  They welcome one another, and find a way to play together, regardless of age or background, and seem to have a kindness about them for kids with differences/challenges that is not always in evidence in the average school yard.  As I write this, an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a 3-year-old from two different boats are playing Minecraft together beside me; one season in Fiji, we were six kid boats with a dozen kids (equal boys and girls) ranging in age from 5-13.  Time and again, I have appreciated that our kids have the time freedom to 'get bored' and then come up with something to do; this might be reading the same book (or series) over and over again, handicrafts, writing, or Lego, but they have become very resourceful at constructively occupying their time.  I think people hesitate to go cruising because they are worried about safety, socialization, and the disruption that might be caused by taking their kids out of their routine for a year or more.  In our experience, careful planning and maintenance can mitigate safety concerns, kids socialize readily with kids when they have a chance, and with grownups when they don't, and our friends who have returned to a land-based life have found that their kids have found their way again with minimal fuss.  Now, even more than when we were planing our trip, there are internet groups and books available that focus specifically on the ups and downs of cruising with kids, which means that parents who are thinking of taking their children cruising can readily find information and support throughout their decision-making process.  I will say that there seems to be a sweet spot in terms of the ages of kids: little ones (preschoolers and younger) are very time consuming, whether on land or at sea.  Elementary/middle schoolers are in the majority, and will be most likely to find kids of their own age in any anchorage; they are also old enough to make memories that they will remember!  Older kids (high-school) are fewer in number, but they are out here, and are able to be more independent both in terms of assisting with operating/maintaining the yacht and also with keeping in touch with the friends they have at greater distances.  I think that this means that parents who are thinking about taking their children cruising are probably wise to set their plans in motion as early as possible, so that their kids can enjoy the broadest range of experiences as 'cruising kids', but that there is no 'wrong age' to go, and it is never 'too late'...

Victoria: We need a space to just be, just us, it does not have to be big  but it needs to be some were (the boom a hammock or a hole dug into all the junk in the V-berth are some favorites on Fluenta)   Also good harnesses are needed!!!! we have found that the blue and yellow ones from West Marine are great! they  have to be comfortable as you will live in them, they need to have a clip on the leg strap that is easy to undo when you don't want to be in the bathroom for long at sea.  BRING BOOKS, LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Johnathan:  Bring lots of books and space for Lego.

Benjamin:  Doesn't everyone live in a boat with a name?  (Benjamin gets confused at the idea that some people live in houses, not boats, and that some live in big land-locked countries, not islands)

Describe a drool-worthy perfect cruising moment

Max:  Hard to name a "top" moment but several weeks with new friends in our first atoll of Tahanea in French Polynesia (sharks, mantas, camping ashore with the coconut crabs), Fulanga in the Lau Group of Fiji again with other kid boats (nice village, spearfishing and SUP trips), Ailuk in the Marshall Islands (a tiny, friendly village, great kite boarding and spearfishing and being the only boat for most of the six weeks there).

Elizabeth:  I have two favourite kinds of moments: at anchor and at sea.  An at anchor moment would be kiting in Ailuk: picture kiting in a spectacularly  pretty lagoon, with vast stretches of brilliant white sand, clear blue sky, constant kiting wind, a fringe of palm trees, being watched only by a group of local children and a few sea birds, with each other as the sole marine traffic.  This was in great contrast to the video we watched of the importance of learning the rules of the road when kiting so as not to endanger other people or boats: there were none!  At sea, I love the quiet night watches, especially when the sea state has come down, the wind is just enough to move the boat, the bio-luminescence stirred up by our wake gives the sense of riding a magic fairy carpet, the rest of the family is asleep, and the only sound to be heard is the gentle wind in the sails and the shush of the water beside the boat; perhaps the light of the full moon is nearly enough to read by or perhaps the moon has set and the entire galaxy of stars is visible overhead, with the Southern Cross showing the way.  [Bonus drool-worthy "Mom" moments - backrubs with one of my kids at anchor in Fiji while watching for shooting stars and having one of those memorable one-on-one conversations that make all the angst of parenthood worthwhile; watching a full lunar eclipse, at anchor in Suwarrow, with no one around for hundreds of miles except our family and the two Rangers]

Victoria and Johnathan:  Camping and sitting around the camp fire with a large group of cruising kids for a week in Navadra, Fiji.

Benjamin:  I drooled a lot on my first big passage but I was only four months old ...

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?

Max:  Our boat has great storage for a 47' boat but I would love a "sail locker" to store the big bulky items like spinnakers, storm sails, kite boarding gear.  A pretty blue paint job that is a magnet for pangas, Mexican tour boats, and dugout canoes ... [and tropical heat]

Elizabeth:  I wish we had a place to permanently/regularly hang a hammock in the shade.  I thought we would easily be able to do this on the foredeck, but somehow, either our foredeck does not have just the right geometry (the inner forestay gets in the way a bit) or I don't quite have the time/motivation/leisure to figure it out (see question above on travelling with children ...) but after five years, I can still count on one hand the number of times I have sat in one of our three hammocks on the foredeck!  In terms of what we have that I wish we didn't, I find that the diesel/water tanks under the benches are a mixed blessing: I am grateful for the fuel/water capacity that we have, but I find that I am really limited on bulk/rectilinear storage space (ie for crates of supplies).  I was drooling when I visited another Stevens 47 who has fitted one of their single berths like a big toy chest: the entire bed folds up, and they have storage to the hull underneath.  The corollary to this question is what design feature does my boat have that I like, and I would say that I like the way the galley is open to the rest of the saloon/nav area so the person in the galley can be part of the general conversation, and is not cut off in a u-shaped galley tucked away from everyone else.  I also like that there are two routes to the aft cabin (through the galley and through the head) so I am (theoretically at least) not always moving out of someone's way so that they can get past me.

Victoria: For what I don't want the answer is, at times, times MY BROTHERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Johnathan:  I wish we had space for to set out Lego and other projects.

Benjamin:  Our boat needs a trampoline to jump up and down on like all our friends' catamarans.  The high counters used to make it difficult for me to steal food from the galley, but now that I am three they are no problem at all as I can use the fridge latch as a foothold to climb up.

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

Max:  Mostly through some offshore racing.  I was running a small sail training program for the Navy in Halifax so it gave me the opportunities to do some offshore racing (Marion-Bermuda, Halifax-St Pierre, Marblehead-Halifax) as well as teaching sailing in the coastal environment.  Racing and teaching are both excellent ways to accelerate your learning.   We both started sailing yachts with the RYA program when we lived in England and I was able to do my RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification before I retired from the Canadian Forces.  We also sailed Fluenta without kids from Seattle to San Francisco to ensure we finished the rough bits and worked out some of the boat's bugs before we embarked the kids (they were six and eight at the time).

Elizabeth:  I took my RYA Day Skipper course when we lived in England (learning boat handling in winds of Force 6-8) then I did a delivery from Bermuda to Marblehead for my (Canadian) Intermediate course.  Even though Max took more courses, it was really beneficial to do our initial training together to get the same foundation and approach.

Victoria: I  did a bit of sailing when I was 3-4 and a bit of dinghy sailing when I was 6-7-8 but other than that nothing.

Benjamin:  I didn't get any. Babies don't get that [actual quote from Benjamin when we asked him]

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?

Max:  I like the fact that the cruising community is so helpful - almost like the pioneer communities that one reads about.  Everybody leans forward to help a boat in need.  It is not something that bothers me particularly but rather something to be aware of is that group-think is prevalent and pretty natural in the cruising community which is interesting considering cruisers are generally pretty independent folks.

Elizabeth:  I love how quickly people will connect, and how spontaneously they will adapt their social schedule to fit in a visit with each other.  When I meet someone and we hit it off, we are much quicker to share confidences and arrange to socialize than we would have been at home.  I think this helps to keep us all a little more sane!  What I dislike is not so much the cruising culture (about which I don't really have any complaints) but about our lifestyle: I get tired of all the goodbyes.  Even though we are often saying 'see you later' and reconnecting even several years down the road (we just met friends in Vanuatu whom we haven't seen for over two years since we were all in NZ), we also experience a lot of wrenching goodbyes.  Even though this could equally happen at home, I still find it hard every time.

Victoria: Every one goes out of their way to help, there is no rush and if it happens tomorrow that's fine:) There is no rush and if it happens tomorrow that's fine. :(

Benjamin:  I like that it is like a village and there are lots of grown ups and big kids to look after me.  I don't like it when all the ladies pinch my cheeks!

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

Max:  I can feel my blood pressure spiking as I start to type: the marine industry.  Nothing has caused us as much grief as incompetence in the marine industry.  We generally do most of our own work but to accelerate the departure from the WA state where we bought the boat we contracted out some of the projects.  The level of incompetence and general unprofessionalism was mind blowing.  I told one company I should charge them a fee for management consulting and providing their quality assurance.   The inability of the manufacturers of marine equipment to respond in a timely or coherent manner or at all to e-mails is also unbelievably poor.

Elizabeth:  These are minor irritants more than rants: Mold growing on everything I store away (especially leather).  Never being able to see our benches without a herculean effort to stow everything away.  Taking two days to prepare / stow / lash all our belongings so that we can go on a one-day passage, and then taking two more days to recover when we get there.

Benjamin: Nothing, I'm not crazy [says Benjamin]

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

Max:  Pet Peeve: people anchoring too close.

Elizabeth:  As usual, I have a few answers:

Q1 - What is one of the simplest/smartest things you have done aboard? We have a spreadsheet of "everything" and in it we record all our storage, maintenance, plans, etc.  It sounds simplistic, but we have well over 1000 line items in our Storage page, and any time we need to find something in one of our dozens of cubbies, I can just look it up.  I have never bothered with including usage stats of our consumables (after five years, I provision based on availability, intuition, and a mortal fear of people going hungry, which is part of the reason that it is always so hard to see our benches!) Especially for items that we use rarely, it is extraordinarily satisfying to search for an item in the spreadsheet, and then find it exactly where it is supposed to be on the boat with a minimum of trouble.

Q2 - What surprised you about cruising?  I was surprised that I wasn't alone in finding out that I 'don't love' long passages.  I love the destinations, both the Islands with their rich cultures, and the cruiser community that develops so quickly in anchorages, as well as the sense of leaving the 'beaten path' and finding our way as a family, but often (especially when Benjamin was really young) I found that I did not actually like the sailing/passage-making that was required to get to these beautiful destinations.  Many people go cruising for the love of sailing, but for me it is more of a means to an end (as shocking as that may sound).  Because everything we own needs to be stowed / lashed to head offshore, and every hour of operation is an hour closer to maintenance, sailing is not something we do for fun.  I thought I was alone in this, but the more I talk to other cruising couples, the more I realize that this is surprisingly common.  Some folks even fly one spouse to the destination while the other delivers the boat.  I am too stubborn to do this, but I can certainly appreciate the sentiment, and I love the creativity that enables every family / crew to develop an approach that works for them.  It seems to me that knowing this in advance might set the more cautious partner's mind at rest if one person is more enthusiastic than the other about cruising - there is so much to enjoy, and passage-making is actually a small part of our life (and the destinations are very much worth the journeys!)

Q3 - What else surprised you about cruising?  Based on my pre-departure reading, I thought I would have a tidy boat, with meals at certain hours, the dishes always washed, school happening (with cooperation and joy) between the hours of 9am and lunch, educationally rich outings in the afternoon, and sun downers in the evening (you may wonder if I prepared for this life by reading fiction!)  The surprise was that 'wherever you go there you are' - I didn't suddenly become minimalist or tidy just because I had moved onto a boat, and even though we significantly downsized before we left, with five of us in a 47 foot monohull, tidiness is rather elusive, and storage takes up much of the volume, including some bunks and benches (once again see previous question about cruising with kids).  The surprise was that schooling and learning are not the same thing; and I have had to learn to stand back and let my children lead when it comes to their education: they will find their own interests and passions.  Sometimes this looks like 'school in the morning' and often it doesn't.  Once again, the surprise is finding out that I am not alone in this, and that every homeschooling family eventually figures out an approach that will work for them.

Victoria: How the heck do you do school: I do it mostly before everyone gets up, in my own time, without someone looking over my shoulder. I highly recommend using SelfDesign (only for Canadians - www.selfdesign.org) and Life of Fred (Math) and Rosetta Stone (French)

16 October 2017

10 Questions for Georgia

Paul Lever and Chris Hunter have been cruising since 2010 aboard Georgia, an Outbound 44 hailing from Seattle, WA, USA.

They left the Seattle area and traveled down the west coast of the US, Mexico and Central America to Panama. After transiting the Panama Canal and visiting the San Blas Islands, then went to Florida and up the ICW of the US to the Chesapeake and then on to the Canadian Maritimes. They then went to the Bahamas and back up the East Coast of the US. Then they traversed the eastern Caribbean, ending in Bonaire and Curacao. They left the ABCs and went back through the Panama Canal to the Pacific. Most recently they have transited the S Pacific and spent last cyclone season in New Zealand. They have just completed the passage out of NZ and are currently in Fiji.

You can learn more about their cruise on their blog.

Why did you change boats and what do you see as the major pros and cons of your changeover? 

The short answer is so that I could stay married:) I'm a big fan of taking the boat you have to cruise in. We had a nice J/37 that was easy to handle offshore, fast and reasonably comfortable. After a couple of years of cruising we decided we were going to be out for a long time and we wanted some more creature comforts, not the least of which a larger galley. The Outbound is a really well thought out offshore vessel with a decent turn of speed. Con is having more money tied up in a boat-- a depreciating investment.

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

The Atlantic side is so much more crowded than the areas we've traveled in Pacific. The Pacific islands and island people are very interesting and generally extremely friendly. The distances you have to travel are much greater in the Pacific, but the coral reefs make it all worthwhile. On the Atlantic side, outside the US, you tend to see boats that are redoing their passages - like in this is the 5th time we've done XYZ. On the Pacific passages it is often the first time for everyone, making it easier to develop a cruising community.

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

Every cruiser needs to work out what cruising style is best for them. Are they commuter cruisers who spend 6 months on the boat and 6 months back home? Do they get to an ex-pat hangout and just want to enjoy the ease of being in the tropics and forget sailing? Do they want to get in as many stops, anchorages and ports as is possible, collecting all the t-shirts on the way? Is making distance and passages what it is all about? Are short jaunts from home the way to go?

I think we started out moving too quickly and trying to make distance. Our cruising style has worked into making significant jumps to get to a cruising ground and spending more time in one area rather than trying to see it all.

What is the most important attribute for successful cruising?

Its all in the attitude. The attitude you have with your partner. The attitude you have toward officials. The attitude toward locals. The attitude and respect you have for the weather. And the attitude to working through all of the repeated maintenance items and jobs of daily living that are never ending on boat. If you are going to let these items get you down, then cruising is just not for you.

I am pretty good at fixing things quickly on the boat. I'm even OK with doing the same job over again. I do tend to get a bit down when its the third time on the same 'fix'.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette 

That's just too easy a question. Use a long painter when you tie up your dinghy at a dock and leave the outboard down. A far more difficult one to answer would be proper anchoring etiquette. As far as I can tell, that totally depends on what your nationality is.

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

We left with one of those large, Conestoga Wagon covers for the boom. Although it's important to have shade in the tropics, that cover was too much effort to put up, take down, store and deal with when the winds got crazy.

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

I've done the early retirement thing a few times and took an Alberg 35 from Annapolis to Venezuela in my younger days. Chris and I have done the Inside Passage to Alaska and back down the outside. Also, while we were waiting to get our finances in order and sell a house we helped friends bring their Cal 40 down the Pacific coast from Washington to San Francisco.

Everyone who plans on taking up long distance cruising should take the opportunities available to crew on a few offshore passages. You'll learn a ton and be much better at setting your own expectations.

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

The first thing that pops into my mind is not killing or being killed by my spouse while living in such a close 24/7 environment. The second is Gin and Tonics.

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy?

Cruisers that start the blame game and yelling when an anchoring situation occurs. Its amazing how a tiny bit of courtesy and cooperation can make what looks like a bad situation calm down and work out for everyone. Being told that I dragged upwind with a string of F-bombs at 3am just doesn't help the situation get better.

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

How long do you plan to cruise?

We left with an open time frame. After a couple of years it was clear that we were going for the long run. Its now been 7 years and we are half way around the world having covered about 33,000 miles (more than enough to make it all the way around). We still take it one year or one season at a time. Its important to us to have the boat out of the Cyclone and Hurricane belts during the season as we are not one to tempt Mother Nature. We started out as full time cruisers, but now try to spend a few months each year back in Washington with our new, above average granddaughter. We'll keep going as long as its still an adventure and our health holds out.

09 October 2017

10 Questions for Calico Jack

Travis and Joanne Scott circumnavigated from the end of 2012 until early 2016 aboard SV Calico Jack, a 1972 Chris-Craft Caribbean 35, hailing from Key West, FL, USA. Their general route was from Florida, through Western Caribbean, and the Panama Canal, then across the Pacific to Bundaberg, Australia. From Australia they sailed the Great Barrier Reef of Australia to Indonesia, across the Indian Ocean to South Africa. They then sailed across the South Atlantic to South America, up the Eastern Caribbean, through Bahamas and returning to Key West, FL, USA.

You can learn more about their circumnavigation on their website.

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

We expected the South Pacific Ocean to be the best sailing conditions we would find, and while they were decent enough, we found our longer passages to be slow and rolly, with lighter than expected winds and large swells coming up from the deep Southern Ocean. (We were told by local islanders "it was a very unusual year"). But other than the first long passage, the island hopping style of cruising with short jumps in between turns the S Pacific into a cruisers dream.  You could spend a lifetime there and still not see it all.  On the contrary, we did not know what to expect of the South Atlantic, yet found that to be the best cruising conditions of our whole trip.  Wind, seas and currents all lined up in our favor for a change, and we had stable enough conditions that we could set the spinnaker and leave it for days without tending to it.  Also, much shorter jumps between landfalls.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time? 

Cruising-as-travel, definitely.  Prior to getting together, my wife and I had both been avid travelers, and the cruising lifestyle allows us to travel more extensively and on a better budget. Our boat is our home, and the thought of taking our home out for a day sail just seems like too much work. But casting off the lines and setting out over the horizon... now that's exciting!

Finish this sentence “One thing I’ve learned about passage planning is…

prepare meals ahead of time.

There are many, many books out there on the subject of passage planning and weather routing. With a little common sense and a good understanding of weather patterns, most passages will be pleasurable.  But here's something we did that made eating while on passage enjoyable: Prepare a few meals before departure. No one likes to cook in a galley when its rough out, at least not us. We would start a few days before setting out, and make a bunch of "one pot" meals (chili, hearty stew, curry, etc), then measure out a portion for 2 people into a Ziploc baggie, and freeze it.  Then it was fast and simple to quickly heat up a nutritious meal without spending lots of time getting tossed around down below, or watching all your ingredients go flying off the counter top!

What is your most common sail combination on passage?

Our west-about route pretty much had us sailing down wind almost all the time.  With our sloop rig, we predominantly used a single head sail only, either jib or spinnaker.  If we set the main and the jib, we found the large main would block the jib and rob it of the wind.  Wing and wing sailing is beautiful, but a lot of work and diligence to maintain that configuration for long periods of time.  We found our speed of roughly 5 knots could be achieved with a single head sail, which could also be easily operated from the cockpit by one person in times of changing winds or deteriorating weather.  We are all about easy, and the little tiny bit of speed we lost was not worth the extra effort.

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

All the old cruising books describe the ultimate cruiser as a ketch rig, full keel with the rudder attached, heavy displacement tub.  We have seen all varieties of boats out there doing it, and doing it just fine.  Mono- and Multi-hulls, sloops, ketches and schooners, big and small and everything in between. Just pick the boat that suits your needs and the cruising grounds you plan to go to.

We had thought of up-sizing to a larger boat before our next cruise, but have decided to stay smaller for reasons that work best for us.

Smaller boat = shallower draft. At only 4.5', Calico Jack can make nearly any pass, or anchor up close to shore when needed. It is a lot cheaper to do a refit or routine maintenance on a smaller vessel.  We found many places were charging in 10' length increments (30-40', 40-50',etc) and the difference between was sometimes significant.  We were small enough to secure dockage when we needed to, at times when marinas were full and larger boats were being turned away.  We managed to pack into 35' everything we needed for long term cruising, and still had room enough for two people to be comfortable.  .

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

For us, we have taken a break from cruising simply because we ran out of money.  A few years to replenish the coffers and we'll be back out there again.

From our cruising friends we have met who stopped cruising, some of them had reached their goal or destination, some ran out of money like us, some had catastrophic damages to their boats, and some had those same catastrophic damages to their relationships.  Offshore cruising can be difficult to relationships, and we saw it affect many couples... older, younger, married, dating, family, straight or gay... no one is immune.  Proper communication is key.  Fears and concerns, hopes and dreams should all be discussed and shared. Teamwork and flexibility will get you through the worst situations, but only if both parties are on the same page.

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

Its not totally free out there anymore.  There are still some free cruising grounds, but it is more common to find areas that charge small anchoring fees, or cruising permits. Many places have installed moorings to protect the environment and no longer allow anchoring. Yachties are often seen as walking ATM's (especially in the eastern Caribbean). And we all know anything with the word "marine" on it will cost more!  It is still possible to cruise on a small budget, but be prepared to either pay the local costs or to look for another place.  Bitching about it, or even worse, sneaking out without paying only makes the rest of us look bad.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

It all breaks eventually!  Preventative maintenance helps, but the wear and tear of constant use will eventually win.  In our case, we blew our transmission, a few sails, the auto-pilot, a fresh water pump, our ice maker, and more little things than I care to remember. But none of this ruined our experience, and even empowered us when we were able to fix it ourselves, or added to the adventure of trying to source parts in other languages.  Some things we never did fix, realizing we never needed them at all... like our ice maker!

Share a piece of cruising etiquette

Don't anchor on top of your neighbor! (unless you are French, then its ok. Every French port we have anchored in was the same.  Its just what they do, get used to it.  Besides, it IS convenient to be able to hand a glass of wine to your neighbor when he runs out.)  But seriously though, it may seem like common sense to some, but to many they don't seem to quite understand that anchoring is NOT the same as "parking" your boat.  Take into account not only your depth and scope and swing radius, but also the same for your neighbors.  If in doubt, dinghy on over and introduce yourself to your neighbors, and talk to them. Maybe they are ok with how close you are, or maybe they are not. Or maybe they have local knowledge of the area that will change your mind about being that close. At the very least they will know your are a conscientious cruiser.  Remember: "last one to anchor, first one to move"

We had one very tight anchorage in Grenada, and after looking for a spot for about 45 minutes, we picked a spot between 2 boats (one we knew, the other we didn't) which left just barely enough swing room.  Our unknown neighbors were busy giving us the stink eye from their cockpit.  Once we were sure the hook was set, we went over to them and explained why we anchored where we did, and asked if they were ok with it.  They understood it was tight, and thanked us for checking with them.  As it turned out, we all became really good friends and we hope to share another anchorage with them someday.

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

"What do you do for watch schedules on passages?"

As with any vessel, someone must be "on watch" at all times.  This can be difficult while cruising single- or short-handed.  We have had this conversation with other cruisers and have seen a whole rainbow of watch schedules... some good and some bad.  We buddy-boated for a while with a couple who did a strict 4 on/4 off, but they arrived in port exhausted and needed a day to recover.  We also met two ladies who did NO watch at night... after dinner they both went to bed and trusted in the auto-pilot and radar on all night!  Aboard Calico Jack we used a fairly relaxed and flexible schedule of 6 on/6 off during the day and 3 on/3 off at night.  This allowed one of us to get a solid block of sleep, while the 3 hour watches at night were fairly short and easy to stand.  We always arrived in port well rested, and in times of heavy weather or when there was a need for both of us on deck, we always felt alert and ready.  Of course, what watch schedule works best for YOU is the one you should do.  This is just our observations and what we have found to be best for us.  

02 October 2017

10 Questions for Rocket Science

TJ and Jenny Durnan are currently cruising aboard SV Rocket Science, a Riptide 55 hailing from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, USA. TJ began cruising in 1989 and Jenny in 2006.

They have been up and down both coasts of North and Central America a few times, made three trips to the Caribbean and most recently sailed from Newfoundland to Europe.

You can learn more about their cruise on their website.

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

I would say that it's primarily sheer numbers and demographic makeup. When I did my first Caribbean lap as a lad with my father, it was pre-gps, labor saving sail-handling systems were in their infancy. Refrigeration was an unreliable luxury not found on many boats, and watermakers were even more rare. I may be stealing this phrase, but cruising was done more by runaways than by retirees. Mostly, I think that uncertainty in navigation and the lack of comforts was the driver of this. Now that our boats have become better equipped and much more comfortable, it's attractive to more people.

Also, it's probably safe to say that as the numbers have increased, general friendliness has diminished. This is true both among cruisers and with the locals, particularly on the more populated routes. There are still places where one can sail and find locals or other sailors eager to make contact and visit, but it's necessary to go to more remote places in general. It's understandable - when there's only one sailboat showing up every few weeks to a village, it's a big deal. When there have been 25 of us anchored off for 3 months, organizing bocce ball tournaments on the local beach, well, the novelty surely wears off.

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

On the overrated side, the Eastern Caribbean comes to mind. The islands are beautiful and the sailing is often fantastic, but I found the islands themselves to be a little bit of a disappointment. The aggressive 'boat boys', often surly locals, and the general crime rate was a bummer. We have done a lot of cruising in the less-developed world, and there seems to be a bit of a culture of resentment in the EC that we've not found elsewhere. This is not to say that it was awful being there, we had some fine times to be sure, but this area is not high on our list of places to spend a great deal of time in.

For underrated, a few places come to mind. First, Newfoundland is absolutely spectacular, for all kinds of reasons. Also, the Pacific coast of Panama was really a nice surprise for us, particularly the rivers. The Pacific coast of Mexico is also a spectacular place to cruise, and it's populated almost entirely by West Coast sailors. This is a shame. It would be well worth a season up there for E. coast/European boats on a circumnavigation who have the time to spare.

What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn't fear? And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should? 

To the first part, storms. True storm conditions on the typical cruising routes are almost never encountered. There are a few tricky spots on a typical circumnavigation, like from the islands to New Zealand, and perhaps a W-E crossing of the Atlantic. But, on the whole, even a gale is exceedingly rare. In about 50,000 miles of sailing, I have been in precisely 2 proper gales and only a single storm force event, which lasted all of 8 hours. Of course, none of this applies to the more adventurous folks sailing around Patagonia and the like, but for the standard cruiser, weather should not be a big fear, provided they're on one of the milder routes during the correct season.

To the second part, two things come to mind. First, the boat is going to break, a lot. There have been way too many departures abandoned because some inconsequential piece of gear isn't working. New cruisers have to get their head around the idea that a broken watermaker should not mean that everything needs to stop. You have to learn how to do without these fussy items, and not let it have a big impact on the morale of the boat when these failures inevitably do happen. As long as the boat's sound in all of the seaworthiness aspects, the rest is really all small stuff, and shouldn't dictate a change in plans. The other thing that's often overlooked by new cruisers is just how they're going to fill all these long days. Cruising can be incredibly boring. There are times when you're at your 10th beautiful anchorage in the last 4 months, and there's not a damned thing to do, besides work on the boat or maybe go out and snorkel on the reef for the 3rd time today. Getting one's head around the slower pace of things is an unanticipated challenge for many.

Finally, drinking is a big hazard, particularly in areas where retirees tend to congregate. The Caribbean and Mexico has a huge population of folks who really aren't sailing all that much, but rather sitting in a marina or anchorage socializing. This daily cocktail hour tends to turn into real boozing every day for many people. We were really shocked by the extent of this in our travels. I view this largely as a response to the boredom mentioned above.

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

Always make sure your anchor is well set, and just because you see a bunch of boats all anchored in a cluster, it's not necessarily the best spot. Also, NEVER sail to a schedule.

Cruiser rant: What is something that drives you crazy? 

People with a 100 ton license who call themselves 'captain'!

Also, just the general blowhard population that hangs around boats. The guys with all the strongly held opinions about just about everything that they force upon the rest of us. We could do with a lot less of that.

Why did you change boats and what do you see as the major pros and cons of your changeover?

Well, Rocket Science is boat #4 for me. The previous three had been slow, full-keeled 'bluewater cruisers'. I was at the point where I absolutely hated sailing those tubs. So, we went all-in on a carbon fiber speedster. This decision was driven by two things, actually. I am a commercial captain, and only get 2-3 months off at a stretch. We were getting sick of hanging around the Americas, and on a 120 mile/day boat, the logistics of venturing further afield were challenging. Second, I was missing the fun of sailing. So, that's the big pro for us, just being able to rack up 200 mile days easily with just 2 crew. If we really want to open things up, we have the option to take some skilled crew along, and we can realistically achieve 300 mile days in tradewind conditions. So, that's the big pro.

On the downside, RS is a big, powerful beast. It is not a rookie's boat, and she is not tolerant of mistakes. So, we have to be more attentive than on previous boats, for sure. This is not a big deal, but we're more conservative with our sail selections than we have been in the past, particularly in unsettled conditions. Also, the sails and rigging are much more expensive.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?  

See above, very rarely. Only 2 gales and 1 very brief F10.

Are you attracted more to sailing itself or cruising-as-travel and has that changed over time? 

For us, it's really about travel. We get FAR more out of visiting a country on our boat than we do by just flying somewhere and staying in a hotel. We live amongst the locals, and have the time and access to a place to really get to know it. The sailing is just a means to an end. Sure, when all's going well, it can be magical. But, for the most part, passagemaking is pretty much an exercise in broken sleep and discomfort. But, it's a small price to pay, in our view.

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

Probably the head needs attention most often.

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

Cost is a good topic. The answer is different for everyone, of course, but we too often read about folks who are planning to cruise on $500/mo. They almost invariably wind up destitute on a broken down boat not far from their original point of departure. This would be a good topic to have an honest discussion on for sure*.

*Editor's Note: For a list of cruising costs published by cruising boats which features IWAC interviewees among others, see this link.