Helio at 6 months

Welcome Helios! Read this interview as originally published on their blog.

[Newly Salted is a blog Dominic and I found beyond useful as we prepared for our departure. They interview sailors who are six months underway. We took their survey, and hope our experiences are helpful to others!]

 Our Background: We are Dominic and Corinne Dolci, two longtime sailors from the San Francisco Bay. We have been cruising in our Island Packet 380, Helios, since January of 2015, enjoying the California coast, Ensenada, and French Polynesia as we journey to New Zealand. You can follow our adventures at www.svhelios.com.

1. As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?

Sleeping in shifts while underway is rough. It's the one part of cruising we couldn't prepare for without actually cutting the dock lines, and both of us put huge value on sleeping an eight-hour night.

We've built a routine that works for us—Dominic is on watch from 8 pm to 12 am, I do the graveyard shift, and Dominic takes over again at 4 am, dozing if conditions allow, and taking a proper nap in the early afternoon—but we're both left feeling groggy, and I'm not convinced that Dominic is as able to really deeply sleep at all while Helios is underway.

We maintain a ban on alarm clocks in all other circumstances, so we manage to tough it out.

I've also never lived more than 30 miles from my family, so for me, not being able to have lunch or do yoga with my mom, hike with my brother, or make dinner with my dad on a weekly basis has been a huge, difficult life change.

2. What is the best cruising advice you've heard?

The sailing advice we live by: never enter an anchorage at night.

The best adventure advice I've heard: travel like you know you're going to return.

But there are a handful axioms we find ourselves often repeating: all plans are written in the sand at low tide; a quiet boat is a happy boat; red sky at night, sailor's delight; it's five o'clock somewhere...

3. What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

We were lucky to have a lot of cruisers supporting us as we prepared for departure (living in a marina for 16 months before departure was invaluable on this front). They're still close friends, meaning if we find ourselves at a crossroads, we can send an email via the satellite phone and have a variety of experienced opinions in the next few hours. It's awesome.

There are things we've learned by doing (no wine for me on overnight passages, wipe down the bright work and stainless after every passages, tune in to the SSB nets regularly) and different choices we would make with the benefit of hindsight (getting a long-stay visa in French Polynesia), but neither of us can think of anything we'd really call a mistake.

4. What do you like the most about your cruising life?

Getting to have a relaxed morning, just about every morning. We sleep in, drink coffee, make a delicious breakfast, consider the day. Sometimes the morning is followed by chores, other times followed by killer sailing, fantastic scenery and magnificent wildlife. We spend the days together, at our own pace, and it's a beautiful thing.

It's also thrilling, to be out cruising, not knowing where you'll be in a week, or what adventure is swimming toward you.

What they say when comparing cruising to landlubbing life is true: the highs are higher, but the lows are lower. Sometimes it's raining and you're lugging groceries around town or cleaning out the icebox while your sister is getting married half way around the world and you're missing it.

The best frame of mind I've found is to consider that cruising isn't a vacation; it's a lifestyle choice, with ups and downs like any other.

5. What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

I miss the food from home more than I thought I would. We've found a few tasty meals here and there, but there's a reason the tropics aren't known for their cuisine. We can usually find groceries and make ourselves delicious meals, but we're spoiled foodies from the Bay Area, and it shows.

It's also tough to have to pace our own adventure. We often find our selves in gorgeous anchorages where we want to stay longer, but our visas are limited and we have to be in New Zealand by a certain date, or a weather window opens and we have to move on. This is a challenge in most travel scenarios, but it's a series of choices we face all the time, and decision fatigue is real.

6. Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

Dominic's wish list revolves around our energy consumption. We have 700 watts of solar power, but he would have a wind generator and a larger battery bank.

It would also be nice to have a more reliable dinghy. We have a soft-bottom Zodiac that came with the boat, and it's been chronically leaking despite multiple repairs. It takes a lot of abuse (getting pulled up on to the beach, tethered to questionable docks) and is still doing its job, but it would be nice to not have to worry about it sinking.

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

We have a lot of blankets we don't use and clothing we don't wear. We have pieces of gear we haven't yet had the chance to install: our BBQ, a drogue kit, some fancy speakers for the cockpit. We have the storage space, so they're not too cumbersome. And who knows...maybe we'll get around to it.

8. What pieces of gear do you find the most valuable?

Our satellite phone, solar panels, and water maker are our favorite luxury items. I say a prayer of gratitude everyday I wake up and don't have to lug fresh water back to the boat. With only the two of us as crew, we consider the autopilot to be absolutely invaluable—to the point that we have a second autopilot stowed away in case of emergencies.

9. How did you finance your trip?

Our trip was five years in the making, so we were able to spend that time saving and living on the cheap: we had dual incomes and no kids; we lived in the East Bay instead of San Francisco; as we got closer and closer to departure, traveling became less frequent, as did nights out on the town. We chose to live aboard for over a year prior to departure, allowing us to purchase a high quality vessel that will hopefully hold her value when we put her on the market in Australia.

10. What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.

Our plans are to spend the 2015-16 cyclone season in New Zealand. We'll spend next summer cruising Fiji and Vanuatu, and then move on to New Caledonia and Australia. We'll likely cruise Australia while our funds last, sell the boat, and return to life in Northern California (so we can refill the sailing kitty and start planning the adventures of Helios II).

Dos Libras at 12 months

Welcome Dos Libras! Read this interview as originally published on their blog.
The questions are beginning to come in...  We recently made the rounds among our old friends in Texas, visiting with as many as we could during our short trip "home".  Everywhere we went people were curious!  I guess they thought we would fall off the edge of the earth!  My Doctor told me "I saw your name on my schedule and thought... You're ALIVE!".  Yes... we're still alive!  And now we're officially... Newly Salted!

Click to read about our first day out

Newly Salted is a collection of interviews with new cruisers.  It has a companion site, Interview With A Cruiser, where you can find interviews with those more "seasoned".  

Both projects were on my list of regular internet resources when I was in the "dreaming stage".  Back in the early days, I never really imagined that one day I would be posting my own interview.  So, without further ado... let's get started!

Who are we?  Bruce has been sailing, mostly on a lake in Kansas, for much of his life.  I (Tammy) started sailing in 1997 on Corpus Christi Bay.  We met while participating as regular crew in the local Wednesday night sailboat races.  We dated, married, and started working towards our dream of being among the lucky few that can call themselves Cruisers.  We tossed the dock lines on September 30, 2013 and have slowly worked our way from Texas, east along the Gulf Coast, down into the Florida Keys and back up the East Coast.  We are currently cruising near Charleston, SC and will soon begin our second year of cruising... Bahamas Bound!

One of the "Good" Anchorages - Boca Raton, FL.
What do you wish someone would have told you before you started cruising?  The first thing that comes to mind is a very practical thing.  You might think that this one would be answered with something profound like "you'll still be yourself no matter where you go"... but no.  We wish that we had been warned that the waters of the East Coast ICW were fertile (in the extreme), and that we would experience bottom growth on our hull in excess of our wildest imagination.  Ever since our prolonged stay in Marathon, FL., we have been battling with an amazingly prolific "secret garden" beneath our floating home.  The fast-growing "beard" can become unmanageable within days and it is home to thousands of small creatures.  The murky waters of the ICW make it difficult to see well enough to get a good clean bottom, and the swift moving current doesn't help either...  It is never-ending.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising?  How bad?  We had one 24 hour hop in the Gulf of Mexico that wasn't great.  The winds piped up to the mid to upper 20 knot range at night after a really nice daytime sail... I stood tensely at the helm while Bruce battled waves on the bounding foredeck to make a headsail change.  I had to keep pushing thoughts about what I would do if he was washed overboard (even though he was tethered) and how I could possibly retrieve him in the dark and wild water.  It wasn't scary, just uncomfortable and we were BOTH ready for it to end come sunup.  It definitely got our attention...

Click to read the post
Our only other weather complaint would be the daily squalls along the East Coast of Florida.  Every day, we could expect that the sky would cloud up and dump a deluge upon us.  Some days it was accompanied by high gusty winds.  There were three days that stand out.  We were in wide open anchorages each time.  We would purposely cut our day short so that we could be safely at anchor when the first gusts hit us each afternoon.  It went on this way for WEEKS and we were very glad to finally get out of Florida where the weather seemed to moderate some...

Click to read the post
Our record wind speed occurred  while we were anchored near Titusville.  We saw 46 knots.  We were anchored in relatively shallow water and very near a small island when it hit.  My concern was that we would drag anchor and end up beached on that island.  We remained in the cockpit with the engine running so that we would be ready to take evasive action if it looked like we were getting too close.  It was a very tense hour but we came through it unscathed.

Click to read the post
Our most exciting weather event occurred while we were anchored near Melbourne Beach.  Again in a wide open anchorage that allowed quite the impressive fetch, the rain came down in blinding sheets.  We could barely make out the rather large sailboat that was dragging down upon us.  We got ready to move and Bruce was heading towards the bow to raise the anchor when we realized that the offending boat was under control and motoring away...

While we haven't experienced any "REAL" bad weather... we feel that we've gained confidence in our boat and in our own ability through these close calls.  I am most surprised at how we were both able to remain relatively calm and deal with whatever Mother Nature chose to throw our way.  (Knock on teak)

What is your favorite piece of boating related new technology?
Hands down it would be the iPad!  It  has been the most important tool in route planning and I can NOT imagine doing this without it.  The applications that show tides, currents, anchorages, marinas and weather... all with our position superimposed on the chart... have made this a flawless operation.

Second place would go to the AIS, although it was primarily valuable to us while we were traveling in the Gulf Coast ICW. The tug traffic there was so heavy, the ability to hail the captains by name as well as the ability to see and be seen from far around a blind curve, gave us an edge that boosted our comfort level.

What was your biggest fear before going cruising?  What is your biggest fear now? My biggest fear starting out was that we wouldn't be smart enough to do this.  I worried that we would make stupid mistakes or just not be able to figure things out.

My biggest fear now after a year... running out of things.  I know, it makes me sound like a borderline hoarder!  But I worry about running out of water.  We still top off the tanks at EVERY opportunity and carry 25 gallons of "spare" water in jugs.  I worry about running out of food, even though we provisioned for the end-of-time... The difference now is that I know what things we DID run out of and will stock up on more of those and less of other things. In my defense, it is NICE not having to stop and find provisions when we would rather move on.  We can pick and choose our provisioning spots.

Share a piece of Cruising Etiquette.  Never... NEVER touch your feet when visiting with others.  Going everywhere barefoot can lead to a certain relaxed attitude towards feet and while it is OK to arrive to your neighbor's boat for happy hour barefooted... it is NEVER OK to pick your toenails, corns or dig toe jam within sight of another soul not bound to you by a deep and abiding love.

What do you think is a common cruising myth? You've probably heard this to the point that it should no longer qualify as a common cruising myth... It isn't all palm trees, white sand beaches and fruity drinks.  While those things are a part of cruising, they comprise such a small part it is almost laughable that they continue to pop up high on the list.

There are plenty of palm trees where we've been, but the white sand beaches have been surprisingly few.  Cruising the US Gulf and East Coasts, we have encountered numerous beaches for sure... but not as many as we thought and VERY FEW had the dreamy white sand.  Even the Keys were very short in the "Dream Beach" category.

And as for fruity drinks... well, after our initial daily celebratory cocktails back in the beginning, we quickly learned that it is not healthy to drink EVERY day.  We have settled into a happy medium of cocktails when the conditions warrant them, but sometimes... many times... water has been our first choice.

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat.  Our centerline queen sized bed. I love snuggling down into our familiar and cozy haven after a day on the water.  No matter where we go, our bed is waiting for us.  Clean sheet day is the BEST!

What piece of gear seems to break the most often?  Our refrigeration.  (is that gear?)  It's the only thing that has been a continual issue.  We've endured a lot of angst due to shoddy installation.  Of all of the gear that has broken, it has been the "luxury items" that have caused us the problems.  The boat itself?  No problems! (knock on teak)

What is the key to making the cruising life enjoyable?  The number one thing is to let go of your compulsions.  There is almost nothing that you MUST do today.  It is OK to sit in the cockpit and read.  All. Day. Long.

The second thing - get off of the boat.  There is a world of adventure waiting for you if you go ashore and explore.  The boat will take you there, but you have to go and play.

What is your biggest lesson learned?  I can't pin it down to just one thing... these are my favorites:
We ARE smart enough to do this.  And if we can do it... you can too.
We make it out here without the luxuries of society... and even enjoy it.
It is OK, and even liberating, to live a life outside of your comfort zone.
The waters before us are not unknown and treacherous, they are somebody else's "back yard".
Cruising will not change you as much as you might think...
No matter where you go... there you are.  It is true.