Hafskip at 12 months

Ralph and Penny have been cruising for 12 months on Hafskip, a 43ft John Pugh Windsong hailing from Melbourne Australia.You can learn more about them, and see pictures of their vessel, on their site. Here is their self-interview:

Background and contact information
We have been water based for just on 12 months now...having given up land, full time employment and decent closet space for the challenges, excitement and joy of our vessel. In this short time we've been incredibly blessed with an amazing array of experiences that just can't be imagined if we'd chosen to set off with a backpack rather than a set of sails.

Ralph as Capt'n, has had a great deal of sailing experience and an incredibly handy background in motor mechanics and marine electronic systems (maybe one day he'll also learn to fish). I (Penny) on the other hand had never been on a yacht until the search for Hafskip commenced so has been on a rapid learning curve (unfortunately Human Resource Management consulting does not adequately prepare one for the cruising life).

Whilst we've been on board and bobbing around for just over a year, we didn't leave Australia until November 2010 as it took us a couple of months to get things moving as they should. You see Hafskip had been let lie on a mooring for nearly 18 months with only sporadic use, so we had a lot of work to do. She was also more of a coastal play thing rather than a blue water cruiser so there were changes to be made... some of which we are still chipping away at.

What general route did you take on your cruise:
Left Townsville Australia for PNG, skirted the PNG mainland, then headed east ,south of New Britain and then north via Rabaul, New Ireland via Kavieng to Chuuk (FSM). Island hopped westward to Yap then zipped down to Palau where we are currently anchored. We had planned to wait out the typhoon season in Palau before heading to the Philippines and then Indonesia, but now be heading back to PNG then on to the Solomon Islands to take up a volunteer assignment...gotta love being flexible.

What are some of your favourite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
Given we hand steered about 4,500 nautical miles after leaving Australia, we're unanimous in our joy at the acquisition of an autopilot! Every one of those miles spent doing 2 hour shifts, nursing callouses, sleep deprivation and back aches has made the purchase of an autopilot a cause for celebration.
Our Radar has also been pretty damn useful, not only has it meant we've been able to dodge canoes approaching an anchorage at night, but we've been able to monitor the speed and direction of squalls as they approach. You're only watching he rain associated with them of course but knowing how fast they're travelling greatly assists a decision to either heave to, divert or keep on moving.

Hafskip's Deck cover is also a favourite, as adequate protection from the elements has been a godsend. It's hard to imagine when day-sailing around your home turf that the sun, wind and rain can be so harsh, but when one is slowly boiling and burning in the middle of the Pacific without a lick of wind (often for days at a time) or alternatively being stabbed with pre-squall rain you realise weather protection is critical.

Probably our last piece of gear we wouldn't like to do without is our Pactor modem/HF Radio combo. With it we have been able to stay connected with friends, family and other sailors on passage and get weather information specific to our location. Whilst grib files are more affectionately known as 'fib' files they still give a good weather overview and they certainly help establish a weather pattern that is more often than not correct.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
In terms of gear... we've tended to acquire stuff rather than jettison it, but you have to remember we were under-equipped in the first place. Contrary to even our own initial thoughts we have used pretty close to every piece of gear, every spare, every tool we brought along with us...and when we haven't used it we've found someone else who can.

The problem then arises as to how to store all this useful, vital stuff and that's where we've had to either prioritise or become creative with what and how we carry stuff. We have either given away, traded or vacuum packed clothes we don't wear. We have loaded videos and books on hard drives and kindle. We have almost used every nook and cranny below deck we can and despite this we are still picking up new and useful bits!

Is there a place you visited where you wish you could have stayed longer?
Our passage through the Federated States of Micronesia to Palau meant we were often in the company of some incredible people and remarkable beauty. We would happily have missed our visit to Chuuk State but as soon as we left it we were overawed by the kindness and generosity of the people we encountered in the neighbouring State of Yap. Unfortunately we were cruising through this region a little late in the season (we were there in April and Typhoon season starts in May) so we felt the need to press on a little and return to lower latitudes. I we could've we would've stayed longer at every stop we made!

Another amazing place was Gasmata in New Britain PNG.... Incredible people and stunning place...
There are a few blog entries on our website that cover these places and the rationale behind our decision to up anchor and leave when we did....so feel free to have a read if you're interested.

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
We have travelled out of season a lot and mostly through the ITCZ (Doldrums) so aside from a couple of passages we have not had consistent trade winds. This means squalls are the norm for us, in fact we have been known to chase them just to get a little extra propulsion....but this doesn't answer the question.

Just to preface our response... the notion of 'bad weather' is directly related to one's ability to handle it. On our initial passages (bearing in mind I'd never sailed before) I (as the novice sailor) found bad weather to be any gust of wind over 25 knots, simply because I did not know how to handle it...now the same bluster simply requires vigilance and brings a smile to my face.

There is no doubt that sailing in the tropics will bring with it daily squalls. Wind gusts can easily reach 35 knots in a matter of moments and the accompanying rain can make your life pretty miserable for a while, but at least they do not usually last for long. Whilst a squall tends to hit you...a weather system is a little easier to avoid (sometimes) and we have been known to simply heave-to while waiting for a system to pass, divert or duck under it before it develops fully, but these are decisions and exercising the options available can control your experience of the weather.

Somehow I feel compelled to add here that in our experience so far, bad weather (in whatever manner you define it) is always a factor and it is rare that in a passage of 5 days or more to avoid it....How bad it has been however, depended on how well we have known our boat and how we managed the risks associated with it. These days, with the application of common sense 'bad weather' is simply a matter of sailing....some days more comfortable than others.

What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?
Thousands and still running a tab!

A couple of big ones though are related to our preparation for departure. Our shakedown in particular was not adequate for our purpose. A good shakedown requires days of open sea travel and a return to port to make the necessary repairs/alterations. We, on the other hand, simply did a couple of day sails and took off across the coral sea, which has meant all of the changes to Hafskip we've needed to make have been made in places that are poorly equipped and meant we have had to either be rather innovative in obtaining spare parts or have them shipped in (very inconvenient). We have also learned that a steel boat is an excellent choice for a first boat but it requires a very good paint job to cope with the demands of extended voyages...unfortunately because we took short cuts to get moving quickly it means we will have to haul out sooner rather than later...possibly even 12 months earlier than we'd intended.

Live and learn eh....This first year has been nothing short of an enormous learning curve but some of the things we've learned would have been moot in the early days as we had little concept of their importance. Sometimes you just have to go do it to know.

What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle?
Dealing with mess, mould and maintenance can put a dampener on a good time but when you think about it it differs little from owning your own home (perhaps minus the mould).

People tend to assume cruising is one big holiday, but there's a lot of work to be done on a boat (any boat) and “another port, another part” has been our standard cry. Initially we found this a little disappointing but over time we learned everyone has repairs and maintenance to do...no matter how old, young or spiffy the boat was!

Dealing with personal challenges also rates here...one is continuously problem solving and there's always decisions to be made. Be it about an approaching weather system, an anchorage, the next port of call given prevailing winds, a part that can't be obtained or even where to put some newly acquired piece of equipment. There have been times when we'd have liked it to be easier and even had the odd throw-down, but we learned over time to simply 'get on with it' and take time to enjoy the good stuff when it arrives (of which there is plenty).

How do you learn about the rules and regulations of your next port of call before arriving or do you just arrive and find out?
This is a must do...research is vital...cruising guides, pilots, other cruisers and internet are all useful of course, but we have found blogs to be awesome when looking for the really useful goss. Blogs provide info about most technicalities for any port of call or passage you could imagine, and can provide an indication of costs/fees/bribes you are likely to incur or even the names of officials your likely to be paying them to. In short, to simply arrive would be a mammoth mistake.

It's not just the rules and regulations that require research either.... language and cultural distinctions, weather windows, seasonal variations, tide tables, alternate charts...and the list goes on. All of these mean that you're not only prepared for your arrival at a next port of call but you're prepared for most things you're likely to encounter after you check in.... even where to find your first, well deserved, land based beer.

It all sounds like an enormous chore but actually this is something we enjoy doing and keeps us amused during our passages. We often spend hours reading about secluded anchorages or simply learning more about the people and culture we're about to encounter.

What is a tip or a trick you have picked up along the way?
We sail to windward quite nicely but when we began to travel west along the equator we began to sail downwind, often in light winds. We have a whisker pole but it's use made for risky sailing in areas where squalls tend to make a sudden appearance. Our problem has since been rectified with a brilliant tip from a seasoned sailing couple on the yacht Asylum. Katie and Jim shared with us their 'pole thing' which involves the use of a good snatch block and pole positioning guys that enable the genoa to be reefed quickly without having to haul in the pole....absolutely awesome!

Aside from 'The Pole Thing' most of the tips and tricks we've learned have been behavioural. Probably the most useful relates to 'letting go'. Sometimes you have to relinquish control and simply wait for a more opportune moment to continue on. Unfortunately the sea doesn't always understand your schedule or your desire to make a repair in 3 metre swell, so there are times when doing nothing at all is the only choice you have.

In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?
The decision to swap your land life for sea legs is not a small one and to be honest most of the other couples we met had made a joint decision. Whilst there may have been one partner with more experience than the other and perhaps a greater desire, the actual move onboard was one made as a couple so we haven't met anyone that required convincing.

As a result of different peoples experience and preferences we've noticed many different divisions of labour....ranging from partners that claim they sail single handedly with their significant other, to those that divide their new life straight down the middle. In our case I (Penny) didn't need convincing but I did need a little time to become useful. Luckily I had a good and patient teacher, although it should be said that the ability to remain patient in high risk situations is not everyone's forte and can be the cause of dispute. In our case we took a large gamble by departing with such limited experience, which in our case paid off but it's not necessarily something I'd recommend.

In short... in short I am sure it is possible to convince a partner to hit the waves but I would recommend that you don't. It needs to be a joint decision made consciously, with both participants in the journey happy and excited to be commencing it.

How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Unlike us I'd recommend a lot more time sailing in different weather conditions. I'd also recommend doing courses and cruising where possible on other boats, preferably before purchasing your own. If these activities are not possible or desirable, the next best thing would be to research til you drop. We read books, blogs, manuals, guides...in fact anything we could get our hands on and we scanned, burned and made notes on every topic we could imagine, from anchor winches to zodiac liferafts. We also spoke, emailed and posed questions in forums when our research came up short. All of these activities not only helped our preparation but have continued to assist us as we've cruised.

Mental preparation is perhaps a little harder. In our situation we found we simply had to learn flexibility and resilience as we went. Luckily we were reasonably well versed in such things otherwise we may well have thrown in the towel a lot earlier. As it stands now, we fully understand what a passage will bring... a lot of sunshine, a little sweat, maybe a few frustrated tears, a few nasty squalls, an inevitable malfunction of something and some tricky solving of aforementioned malfunction. That said, there will also be some days of 15-20 knots of constant wind filling the sails, crystal clear blue water, the odd dolphin playing at the bow, the occasional sporting tuna wrestled onboard, a few awesome full moon sailing nights, loads of amazing sunrises (often better than a sunset) and the most incredible feeling of achievement and satisfaction when you finally reach your next port of call.

Silas Crosby at 12 months

My name is Meredith Lewis and I am from Vancouver Island, Canada. I started sailing as a little kid when two of my Uncles built a 36 foot Brent Swain steel boat, the Silas Crosby. I spent most of my summers with one family or the other cruising up and down the BC coast. In 2003 I joined Steve at the end of his family's year long cruise to Mexico/Hawaii for the Hawaii-Victoria leg. I was sixteen and it was a great introduction to offshore sailing. In September 2010 Steve and I left Vancouver Island aboard the Silas Crosby bound for Chile. After stops in Mexico, Galapagos and Easter Island we arrived In Chile in April. The upcoming southern summer will be spent cruising in Patagonia. My website is www.meredithlewis.net.

Describe a "typical day" at anchor on your boat   
For lots of reasons, cost among them, we try to anchor whenever possible. In the nine months between Vancouver Island and Chile we spent less than two weeks tied up to a dock (the police dock in San Diego was the notable exception). One of the other major reasons is that we way prefer places where there are no docks - the more remote the better. In order to make this kind of lifestyle interesting/bearable, however, we have made sure that exploration off the boat is easy, possible and fun. We have two fourteen foot kayaks on board and gear for paddling in any kind of weather. Paddling allows us to explore places hard or impossible to get to by sailboat and allows us to get some of the exercise seriously lacking in a liveaboard lifestyle. It also allows us to be completely independent - if we had to coordinate dinghy rides constantly I'm not sure how long we would last. I know that Steve was worried at first about having the boats on deck in rough weather, but after three offshore passages the conclusion is that things seem fine.  

Describe a "typical day" on passage 
on your boat
While on passage we both spend lots of time reading. We both have Kindles and lots of digital books. Steve spends lots of time chatting on the radio (I chat when we set up scheds with boats we know - nets, not so much). I am learning to knit (although I spend more time thinking about knitting than actually knitting). Also, hours and hours are spent just sitting on deck and looking around. There is an amazing freedom to the singularity of the project of passage making; unlike most of life, which can be complicated and confusing, the project of sailing from point A to point B has a marvelous simplicity.  

What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore? 
From chats with other passage-making cruisers, I think that our passage routine is a little bit unusual. In the interest of being able to sleep for longer, we choose to stand six hour watches. We break the night into two - Steve stays up to talk on the radio for the evening and early night and wakes me up in the wee wee hours. I stay up until sun rise and then go back to sleep until noon. We are very relaxed about the schedule and things obviously change based on weather conditions. When on watch we do mostly all of the sail changes etc. alone. We have found that few things actually require two people and can usually wait until daylight/watch change. 

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat   
To be clear, it's not my boat. However, after my time aboard, I know it pretty well. It's hard, because I think my favourite thing about the boat might also be the thing that most commonly frustrates me. The boat is homemade and was built with function, not fashion, in mind. To this end, it works incredibly well - every system has been thought through and most are in their third or fourth reincarnations. Steve knows the boat inside out and is always looking for ways to improve things. However, it is not a luxury yacht - the center cockpit is small and very secure but not very comfortable. It is perfect for one or two people to sit in while sailing but gets really crowded when we try to socialise. The same goes for the main cabin. However, I wouldn't change this for the world - it speaks, I think, to one of the most important things to think about when considering a boat for cruising: what kind of cruising exactly are you going to be doing? The Silas Crosby is decidedly NOT a tropical destination, social drinks for all kind of boat. However, with the diesel heater, secure cabin and cockpit and pilot house/dodger combo it is perfect for the high latitude sailing that it mostly does.  

How often have you faced bad weather in your cruising? How bad?
We faced our worst weather in the last couple of weeks before arriving in Chile (at about 40 degrees south). Steve generally thinks that I am overly nonchalant about these situations but it's because I have total faith in the boat and the work and thought Steve has put into it over the years. From our few heavy weather moments, I have learned that it's rarely a mistake to have less sail and if the thought "perhaps we should chuck out that drogue" comes up, it's probably time for the drogue. We put out the jordan series drogue twice coming into Chile and it was really cool to see how well it worked. Another thing that we discuss a lot on board is how hyped offshore heavy weather gets - to be sure, it can be really challenging and definitely dangerous. However, if the boat is prepared and all of the sail combos/heavy weather gear has been thought through and nothing breaks, the boat will be able to handle it. It's all of the hard bits (ie. navigating near land) that is the really challenging part of sailing. 

What is your most common sail combination on passage?   
Our sail combos while offshore are almost totally dictated by the ability of the windvane to steer. Therefore, while sometimes we may be able to squeeze another half knot or knot out of the conditions, if the windvane is overpowered and can't steer, we're happy to reduce sail and go a bit slower in order to not hand steer. Therefore, we almost always have at least one reef in the main and more sail up forward. We are almost constantly reefing - both the roller furler head sail and the main (it has three reefing lines). Some squally watches I think I have reefed/unreefed ten times.  Another sail combo that we use to exhaustion whenever the wind is even remotely behind us is wing on wing with the headsail poled out. The whisker pole is unbelievable important, as far as we are concerned, and we are generally surprised by how few people have them/know how to use them. The boat seems to calm right down and great naps/book reads can be had. 

What do you miss about living on land?    
Life on board lacks almost all of the convenience of life on land. Everything requires effort and thought - grocery shopping almost always takes an entire day and requires lots of walking with a heavy pack and laundry either costs or takes a long time. I don't miss the convenience, but sometimes I miss the independence of living normally. Not many other twenty five year olds choose to live on a small sailboat with their uncle for a couple of years.  I definitely miss being part of a fixed community (remember running into people you know on the street? I don't) but that said the cruising community goes a long way to make up for that.  I also miss regular, land based exercise. When at anchor, it requires serious motivation to paddle ashore and go for a run. Things were awesome in Mexico when I could just jump overboard and swim for an hour. 

What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
Generally, I like the cruising community for the fact that everyone has opted for a life less normal. However, I was surprised and a bit disappointed by how hard so many people seem to try to make their cruising lives more closely resemble the lives they lived on land. It's hard to explain, but a few hours at the La Paz morning coffee hour will more than explain my point; so many people seem to spend so much time trying to make their lives on board easier rather than more interesting. Hours are spent trying to fix broken, superfluous systems rather than choosing the simple option and actually getting out to all the amazing anchorages a day's sail away. 

I was also surprised/disappointed by how few cruisers are seriously into sailing. It might sound funny, but it's overwhelmingly true. We are by no means purists - we have an engine and it lets us get places that would be seriously hard/impossible to get to by sail alone. However, sailing  is always the background project. We will wait days for wind to avoid motoring and are always pumped by perfect downwind conditions (does it get any better?). 

I kind of knew this before hand, but apart from a few notable exceptions, there are relatively few young people out there sailing. Obviously, it's an expensive project and not many can get the funds together to make it happen on their own. Without a doubt, if I see a boat with anyone under thirty five on board I'm bound to be knocking on the hull before too long.

All of this said, what an amazing community - friends are made fast and everyone has interesting stories to share.  

What do you think is a common cruising myth?
I think that it's important to acknowledge that cruising is pretty just like normal life; it's not always fun. We have met lots of people that seem to be waiting for the real fun to start - always looking into the future to the next destination for the moment when they will be stretched out on deck in a bikini with a margarita in hand watching the sunset. This is possible, don't get me wrong. However, with such fixed ideas of what success or fun looks like, it is too easy to be disappointed. Those who seem to be having the best time are up for anything and recount with relish the rainy, cold, windy moments just as readily as the sunny, margarita bikini moments.

What do you find most exciting about your cruising life?
Every landfall after being offshore is absolutely exciting (even if I pretend to be really nonchalant). There is something about gliding into a new harbour and dropping the anchor thousands of miles away from the last place it was dropped that is seriously cool.
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 by  and tagged   |  

Eagle at 3 months

Tom Brown and Jeanne Walker sail aboard SV Eagle, a 36' Freeport Islander. You can follow their journey on their blog.
We met in 2003 and our third date was on Eagle, Tom's first time on a sailboat. We were married in 2005 and the plan to sail away began to take shape shortly there after. We already had a great boat, a Bob Perry designed Freeport Islander. She is a modified full keel sloop, with a set of three large window down each side of the main salon. She is incredibly comfortable to sail, as well as a roomy live aboard boat. After an intensive complete re-fit of the entire boat, we sailed away from the dock, full time on April 19th, from Des Moines Washington.

What are your plans now?
Our first 90 days were spent doing a tour of the Canadian Gulf islands and Desolation Sound. Now we're back in the San Juan Islands, getting ready to head down the Pacific Coast in September on our way to Mexico.

Is there some place that you wish you could have stayed longer?
The farthest north we got was a place just above the Desolation Sound area called The Octopus Islands. We were able to take a stern tie back in a small cove in the north east corner that was just magical. Most of our travels were so early in the spring, that the weather was pretty miserable, and when we got to Octopus Islands, the sun came out and it was beautiful. There were some nice hikes, we caught fresh prawns and ling cod for dinner. Unfortunately, our water supply was running low, and there was a nasty red algae bloom in the water that prevented us from using our water maker. So we had to leave sooner than we had wanted.

What do you enjoy about cruising that you did not expect?
After a lot of years working in the corporate world, and noise and stress of the city, we have been awed by the pure quiet. Sitting in remote anchorages, the loudest thing being a song sparrow or a loon calling. Even the occasional air plane or other boat motoring by has seemed like a violation of our 'ear' space. In all our dreaming, that part never really occurred to us. Along with the silence, the clarity of the sky and the scenery. We've been so far away from even small towns that there has been relatively no smog, pollution or trash. It's nice to see a beach as it was long, long ago. The sky's are brilliant blue, the trees, deep green, the stars...well, there are stars!

Is there something from your land life that you brought with you that you feel silly about now?
Tom: I spent several years as a PGA Golf pro, and have my entire set of golf club, and two pair of shoes along. I gave up some valuable hanging locker space to have them along, and now am really considering it a bit silly. I guess time will tell on that one huh?

Jeanne : I've always wanted to try my hand at watercolor. I've got a drawer full of supplies. I've also been reading on the techniques and steps involved. I'm not sure that we have the space on board for me to start a project. Perhaps when we're in a warmer climate, I'll pull out the colors!

Is there something from your land life that you brought along that you are especially glad to have along?
Jeanne: My cookbooks, good knives, pans and utensils. After 10 years of living aboard, it was all here anyway, - I've moved many of my cookbooks to a box in an attic!

Tom: Given the amount of photography work we do, the only thing I can think of is our cameras.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette.
Every one talks about other boats anchoring too close, and that has been a problem a couple of times, but my pet peeve right now is the speed which some people run their dinghy’s around the anchorages. Even when there is no posted speed limit or “No Wake” zone, a small amount of common courtesy would go along way when you need to go from point “A” to point “B” and my boat is on that direct line. I feel that if you need to run your dinghy right next to my boat at the highest possible speed, there better be a medical emergency.

How did you (or did you?) gain off shore experience?
Jeanne: I was a participant in the 1994 Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii on the first all women team. I also was part of the delivery crew returning a sailboat from Hawaii after it completed the Vic-Maui race, and a delivery up the Pacific Coast. I've been boating since I was a baby, and sailing since about twelve.

Tom: I had never even been on a sailboat prior to meeting Jeanne, and have yet to really have any offshore experience. I've been off shore in fishing boats, and helped deliver a large power boat to Seattle, but no real off shore sailboat experience. It was a steep learning curve, but some great coaching from Jeanne, and some local racing around the Puget Sound have helped a lot.

What would you recommend to someone preparing to cruise?
One of the things we are truly happy about, is that we had lived aboard for a while prior to starting this adventure. You might be cooped up for several days if the weather turns bad or you have a long crossing. You will be spending a lot of time with the other person on the boat, in a smaller space than usual if you have been living in a house or apartment. We encountered several straight days of rain when we took off to Canada and were glad we had something of a routine down for the close quarters living. Bad weather only intensifies this, so it is best to have gotten used to sharing these cramped quarters at a time when it is not forced upon you. The other thing would be to make sure that you have things to do together, and things that you can do apart. Hobbies or other interests, that can be done apart will make your time together way more enjoyable.

Make sure your communication with each other is good. Be able to say, “ I need some space”, or alone time, and don't take it personally when it's said to you. 

Get into the habit of putting things away after you've used them or removed them from a locker, and back to the place it came from. It's amazing how fast an 'explosion' of clutter can happen!

Your routine 'systems' make everything run smoothly – like how you tie up your lines, and sheets, stow things in a locker, or turn off systems at the end of a passage. If your system works, for you, do them the same way, every time.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Jeanne: For many years, 30 +, I've dreamed about living on a sailboat and traveling. For many years I lived in small apartments, or rooms, and didn't gather or collect 'stuff'. I read most of the cruisers stories. If there was some 'change' I could make while on land, that they did while cruising, I did it to make the transition to a boat easier.

The reality came in steps. First, I purchased a boat on which I could live and sail locally. That was good. Then, I found the best partner/mate – Tom, and together we revived the 'sailing off' part. Next, plan it: We budgeted what we wanted to leave with in our cruising kitty, how soon we could pay off the boat, the projects we wanted to do to the boat, courses to take, etc.,and how much time it would take us to reach those goals on our current incomes. Once we figured that and set a date we were very particular about any expenses not related to our goal. Being realistic about our incomes, expenses, the projects and a good balance of work and play got us here. The closer we got to our departure date, the more intense the work became, knowing the 'play' would get balanced out once we left.

What else did you do beside sail?
We both enjoy photography, exploring by dinghy, foot and sometimes bicycle when in an anchorage. Tom likes to fish, enjoys messing around with the SSB, and writing stories for our blog. Jeanne likes to cook, do an occasional sewing project, and writes stories about our adventure for our niece and nephews. We're both voracious readers and often flip a coin for time in the hammock.

Class of 2011

Three Sheets NW is doing a series on cruisers casting off the docklines from the Pacific Northwest in 2011. The first two interviews are already published and you can keep track of the series here.

Estrellita 5.10b at 12 months

Livia and Carol began cruising in 2010 and have spent the last year exploring British Columbia in their Wauquiez Pretorien 35. They leave this August for California, then Mexico and beyond.

Read this interview as originally posted on The Giddyup Plan.
What do you love about cruising?

Carol:  The sense of adventure.

Livia: I love that I spend most of my days in nature. I used to camp or hike to be near nature but, at least in the regions we have been traveling in, I am in nature rather than towns most of the time. There is something calming and centering about being in the wild.

What do you dislike about cruising?

Carol: Having no control over mother nature and not being fast enough to divert somewhere else to avoid incoming weather.

Livia:  When the weather is crappy, our options for fun are limited compared to the options we had when living in a city. I no longer feel cramped in the space we have except when it is very cold and/or rainy. It's like camping in the rain except of course we have DVDs and popcorn.

Being alone in an anchorage too often. We dreamed of that kind of solitude, and we still look forward to it, but after so many days of solitude we start craving people. A boat finally comes in and we have the binoculars out trying to see if they might be new friend material. I call it the ?misanthrope wannabe syndrome?.

What do you worry about?

Carol: The boat or gear breaking. Anything necessary breaking at a bad time ? something like the heat exchanger in the engine, the head, our heater ? things that if they break we need to alter our plans to fix so our life isn't miserable.

Livia: I worry some about money in the future. I worry about hitting debris in the ocean like containers from ships. I worry that the demands of this lifestyle will overwhelm the fun factor. I worry about what we'll do if we don't love the tropical portions of our travels.

What are you looking forward to?

Carol: Warm places, sandy beaches, morning swim.

Livia: Jumping off of the boat into warm water after coffee and before breakfast. Snorkeling.

Favorite place recently was

Carol: Hecate Strait ? the wildlife surrounding us that we could see and the sense of adventure of a multi-day passage.

Livia: We just spent a few hours soaking in the pools at Hot Springs Island in Gwaii Haanas Marine Park in the Haida Gwaii. That was fantastic.

Least favorite place recently was

Carol: Kostan Inlet ? nothing to look at, full of bugs, prisoner because of a bar at the entrance.

Livia: We haven't visited anywhere that I actively didn't like lately. A few places fell short of our expectations (Blind Channel Resort, Octopus Islands Marine Park) but they weren't bad.

A lesson learned is that

Carol: The sound of the wind in the rigging is scarier than it actually is.

Livia:  If we are in light air and there is a swell running, we quickly learned to use our preventer on our boom on almost every point of sail, not just when reaching and running. It minimizes the popping of the sail.

Best gear award goes to...

Carol: Wallas. For keeping us warm and dry.

Livia: I have to say our solar panels. It is so amazing to have power silently charging our batteries all day. Our new clutch for the main halyard is also a big improvement.

Worst gear award goes to...

Carol: Wallas. For being a high maintenance heater.

Livia: Our Wallas diesel heater. Any unit that requires regular maintenance by a factory rep in order to run properly is bull in my opinion.

Newly Salted questions:

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

Livia: At least in the areas that we've traveled, most of the horror stories we've heard about various Capes and various Straits seem to be from people who don't pay attention to the direction of the wind and the direction of the tide. If you align those two in your favor, and pick a wind strength you are comfortable with, the Capes and Straits in BC are lovely sailing, no sweat.

Carol:  That there is no perfect boat. Who you are (do you *really* like to sail?) makes a difference in what boat is right for you. But even knowing yourself, nothing is clear. The same make/model of boat can be good or crap depending on the specifics (wiring, gear, etc) and there is no hard and fast rules about any of the specifics (how thick of fiberglass does a ?solid? boat have?).

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

Livia: Once we were completely in charge of our own schedule, we had to find a balance between comfort and stability (staying in one anchorage for a bit) and novelty (moving frequently). We still often err on the side of novelty. A problem with erring on the side of novelty is that there are always times when we intended to stay a few days but were chased out by winds etc. If we are already exhausted and were counting on a few days of down time, a surprise move is exhaustion on top of exhaustion. We need to keep some emotional and physical reserves so the unexpected can still be fun rather than a slog.

Carol:  Losing my identity, but I got over it pretty quickly. Not having a hamburger when I want one.

What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

Livia: I felt tied to the boat. Last winter we should have moored the boat somewhere cheap and flown somewhere sunny and cheap. It would have cost the same as mooring in a city in BC and been a lot more pleasant. I try to think of us as vagabonds now, not cruisers, because I feel it leaves a lot more options open.

Carol:  Rushing when it was not needed.

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

Livia: Most of what I have read that I didn't find to be true were things that were specific to one region or one style of cruising or things that were outdated. Once you figure out which type of cruiser the advice giver is, or which region they have traveled in, their suggestions are often good information. It's usually the case that bad advice comes when the person giving it fails to realize that we aren't the same as them and/or aren't in the same place as them.

We've heard some odd things from individual boaters lately. I've been told that if we don't have netting on our lifelines we'll be swept overboard (um, jacklines much?). We've also had a number of people who seem to think we are too relaxed and that we need to be more afraid so they tell us all kinds of things we should be afraid of.

Carol:  I didn't read much.

A lot of places are described as ?wow, yay, beautiful? but when you get there they aren't for you. If you are a certain kind of person you would love it, like if you like hiking the Gulf Islands are fantastic or the Haida Gwaii might be fantastic but if you don't like the grey you could end up feeling pretty lukewarm about the area because a rainy, grey anchorage is a rainy, grey anchorage.

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

Livia: A number of long distance cruisers we met have emphasized the importance of people (cruisers and local residents) in their enjoyment of cruising. Although we are very social, we love the outdoors and solitude so much that I didn't take that advice to heart but I'm finding it very true. Also, being blown away by the generosity of people you meet ? that's something I glazed over but is striking to me now.

Carol:  A lot of things I read were true but I expected them to be true ? like boats break and this isn't a problem free adventure. I had heard that cruising was hard on your body and I am surprised to find how true that is.

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

Livia: No. Many people start cruising by immediately heading to remote locations. We didn't and for that reason we saved half of our purchases and installs for our first year in order to get some experience before we made decisions. So, there isn't anything we wish we already have because we can still get anything we want. We are going to California next, not a remote island atoll, so we can still buy anything our heart desires.

Carol:  No, it's the opposite in a way. The problem is that we cruised but we didn't go for Mexico and the S Pacific right away so it was easier to start with nothing and install as we go.

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

Livia: Carol's guitar? JUST JOKING. I probably wouldn't have purchased a navigation program and would use OpenCPN if I could do it all over. I don't have enough experience with OpenCPN (because we have a fancy program) to make a firm call on that though.

Carol:  Nothing. Usually I make a list of what I need and install it right away, but with boats I did the opposite, worked with what we had and then figured out if we needed more or less based on experience rather than loading up with crap that we may not need. We use everything we have on the boat.

What are your plans now?

Livia: California this August-ish and then Mexico this Fall. After that, it could be West, or South, or East?just not North.

Carol:  Continue. Continue until it's not fun or until I'm too scared.

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

Livia: Please ask us a question in the comments of our blog. We love comments.

Sarabande at 30 months

Alicia and Brian of SV Sarabande (Pearson 45) have been cruising since October 2008*. You can learn more about their travels on their website.

sb1 Q:  What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?

A:  We wish someone had just calmly sat us down and said, "Throw out all your preconceived notions about how you’re going to feel, where you’re going to go, and how long you’re going to take."  There are going to be surprises and curveballs coming at you all along the way, and you’ll make the most of these if you stay loose.  It's been a good philosophy for us to apply to life in general as well!

Q:  As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?

A:  Spending 24 hours a day together takes it toll, and it took a while for us to figure out how to work “alone time” for each of us into the plan.  So important!  Also, coming from New York City, a place where, given the proper amount of effort, you can make a lot of things happen in a day, it was a little difficult to adjust to how much time it can take to accomplish things in other places.

Q:  What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

A:  We provisioned as if preparing for the aftermath of WWIII, and didn’t know nearly enough about weather.  Turns out people eat food all over the world, and the weather is the single most important variable in a sailor’s life!  Cruising makes you interact with weather in such an intimate way.  It teaches you to respect, and to pay attention to nature in a way that many people in affluent countries, who spend much of their day indoors, no longer need to do.  So after years of living in the city at a dock, sort of oblivious to weather patterns, we made some weather-predicting blunders during our first year.

sb2 Q: What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

A:  We love that this way of living is the antithesis to the modern trend of moving too fast and not paying attention to all the little details and small moments that make life  richer.  Our style may be simpler and slower than it once was, but we're much more relaxed and aware of simple pleasures than we were before we started.  That's exciting, in a  quiet way.  You only get X amount of days in your life, after all, and we know we'll never regret the way we're spending these.  We also love that there are so many beautiful places that can only be seen from the water, and we get to take our whole home with us when we visit them!

Q:  What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

A:  The holiday season just isn't the same.  It's the time of year we miss our families the most, and feel nostalgic for cold weather.  Then we remember what it's like to live aboard in a New York winter, and we feel better.  Also, Alicia hates potlucks and it seems they are inescapable.

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

A lot of the cruising literature that we read made cruisers, as a group, sound like some sort of utopian community, where everyone can be trusted and nothing bad ever  happens.  While it’s true most members of the cruising community are the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, a few of them are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  We've  learned to be friendly, but not relax our guard too quickly.  Just like in any group of people, there are a few thieves and crooks looking to abuse the trust of others.

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

A:  That it takes about 6 months to a year after you’ve left to truly calm down from the pace of the rat race.  I think we read that in Beth Leonard’s cruising handbook (which is excellent).  Also, that it takes as much money as you have, meaning you don't have to be a trust fund baby or retired to sail off.  There are lots of ways to make it work.

Q: Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

A:  Yes:  a good RIB dinghy and reliable outboard!  We left on our cruise with a very sub-par dinghy setup.  When you live at the dock, it’s easy to overlook the importance of how you're going to get to shore when you're at anchor.  But when you’re out cruising, your dinghy is so crucial!  We now finally have a great RIB dinghy, an outboard engine that consistently works (knock wood), and a small rowing dinghy for those times that it doesn't, or those times where we simply feel like rowing.  Also, solar panels.  Our boat came with a wind generator, which has been great, but many times the wind completely dies.  Likewise, people with only solar panels bemoan cloudy days, which are often windy.  Diesel costs are higher than ever these days, not to mention you don't want to pollute, so definitely consider both wind AND solar power - they will pay for themselves quickly.

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

A:  We plan to continue doing this until it's not fun anymore.  Since we've had our baby boy, we're wondering how we'll feel when it comes almost time for him to go to school, but we have a few years to go before then, so we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  We'll know when it's time for us to stop.

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

A:  Well, one question we have for the world in general is where are all the younger cruisers?  Not that we don't love all the older friends that we've made, but the people we meet that are closer to our age (early thirties) are few and far between.  We hear that this wasn't the case 30, 40 years ago, that there were lots of lots of young people cruising then.  The same generation that was out cruising back then are the ones still out there doing it now!  What's up with our age group?  Where are they?! 

*Editor’s Note: Through my error SV Sarabande was asked to give a Newly Salted interview rather than an IWAC interview.

Kaleo at 6 months

Read this interview as originally published on s/v Kaleo.
A quick background:

Matt was born in San Diego and spent his formative years feeding cattle and mucking stalls on the family farm in northern Idaho. After graduating college Matt migrated south to Dallas to start his career in advertising. Where as fate would have it, he met an explorer like himself and that’s where this story truly began.

Christie grew up in a small town near Houston, Texas where she discovered big dreams and a lot of spirit can take you pretty much anywhere. Following grad school, Christie immersed herself in exploring other cultures by traveling worldwide. After which she landed in Dallas to start her career in advertising. Where as fate would have it, she met an explorer like herself and that’s where this story truly began.

Along the way they fell in love with each other and with sailing through adventures aboard a little Fireball Skiff, a week aboard friends’ cruising boat in the Chesapeake, and as part of a racing team at a local lake.  Soon thereafter they bought Kaleo, a 1984 Aloha 34, with a dream of cruising and were married 2009.


Early last November they took sabbaticals, cast off the dock lines and cruised down the Gulf Coast bound for somewhere warm and tropical.

Kaleo has since carried them across the Gulf Stream, throughout the Bahamas and as far south as the remote Jumentos islands. You can read more about their travels and contact them on their website.

What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We woke up and went for it. The fastest way to make any dream happen is to take action. So we started turning “what ifs” into “what’s next”. We made a plan, set dates, worked hard, made sacrifices and celebrated along the way.

Our advice for any dreamer (unless you’re independently wealthy) is to get your finances in order. Before we were married, we lived like most people, with some debt and no significant financial plan. Regardless of going sailing or not, neither of us were content with our financial situation. So, we changed that by following the financial principles laid out in the Bible which were made easier by using Crown Mvelopes Software. The biblical principles helped us pay off all debt, empowered us to be more generous with what He has provided and save enough to live this dream.


Why cruising now?
The notion of breaking free, living simply and exploring the world in our floating home captured our imaginations. Since we decided to go now, we haven’t had time to acquire much. In fact, that’s part of the point of this adventure, being liberated from stuff and free to enjoy experiences and life at a different pace.

What’s cruising been like for you so far?
Christie :
It’s humbling and exhilarating. Incredible and intense. Vivid and scary. It’s punctuated by exceptional highs and lows and all very real. It is not easy. And it is not for everyone, but we’re grateful to be experiencing it.


I guess with a dream you tend to only envision the good parts. But cruising is just like living any lifestyle. There is a balance of good and bad. The boat doesn’t magically fix itself and the wind isn’t always blowing the direction you want. But the feeling of actually living something you’ve dreamed of makes the challenges worth it.


What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
That there will be days that your heart melts at how much you miss the presence of family and friends but that your heart will be equally filled with the joy of new experiences and connected with amazing people along your journeys that will touch your lives forever. Bonus is that Skype will bridge the miles to loved ones while you’re taking in these new adventures.


What do you miss about living on land?
- Family and friends
- Our home church
- Our own washer, dryer and dishwasher
- Instant connectivity
- Access to organic, fresh produce

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat?
How we’ve made it our home. All the little modifications that make it as livable as it is functional. From adding a large double sink with modern home-like faucets in the galley and refinishing the head countertop with granite to resting more soundly on a custom v-berth mattress and sheets.

Kaleo is very forgiving. From running aground to having up too much sail. No matter the situation she gets us through it despite our steep learning curve.


What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
- Bullet 2HP WiFi booster – Internet access on the boat when there are unlocked signals within about five miles
- Honda Generator Eu2000i – nearly as much shoreside power without having to be shoreside
- Cruise RO 20 GPH watermaker – more leisurely showers as often as we’d like, no worries when the tattletale water pump kicks on
- Lavac electric toilet – no looking, pumping or flipping a valve from wet to dry bowl. Just lowering the lid and pressing a button takes the guesswork and campingness out of going to the bathroom.
- Adventure Medical Marine 1000 Kit – the ideal cruisers’ first aid kit designed for short offshore adventures. Well stocked to tend to the crew if medical care is 12 – 24 hours away.

- Autopilot – other than anchoring or docking, R2-D2 pretty much pilots us everywhere
- SSB receiver – thanks to this and Chris Parker, what to expect for weather is rarely a question
- Handheld VHF radio – in the cockpit, in the dinghy, on the bow or ashore, this is like a cruiser’s cell phone
- Forespar Dinghy Motor Crane – I can’t imagine having to lift the dinghy motor up on the rail each time without the help of this device
- Cruise RO 20 GPH watermaker – freedom from the dreaded blue jerry jugs

What are some little things that made a big difference in your cruising experience?
Albeit not critical gear for cruising, these are a few things that we didn’t know to bring when we tossed the docklines but got as we were underway.
- Waterproof backpack – great for packing a change of clothes or the laptop on a wet dinghy ride
- Platypus PlusBottle – great for toting water on the go. It clips on a backpack and rolls down when it’s empty
- Lookie Bucket – a clear bottom bucket used for checking the anchor or looking at reefs without getting wet
- Hawaiian sling – a slingshot type of device used for spearfishing
- Clear dome umbrella – an easy way to stay dry on a wet dinghy ride while still being able to see in front of you
- Jump drive – for sharing photos and other resources with fellow cruisers
- Carafe – makes serving chilled sangria, lemonade, wine, tea easy and pretty
- Smith Polarized Sunglasses – they look good and cut the glare on the water, making it easier to spot reefs and fish
- Canon Powershot D10 Waterproof Camera – known as the cruiser’s camera, it takes beautiful shots and stands up to the hard life of living in saltwater


What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Cape Horn Windvane – This is a superb piece of self-steering gear built for sailing around the world. Since we’re not crossing oceans during this cruising season, it’s underutilized and we could easily live without it.

How are you giving back to the communities you visit?
Kids have a big place in our heart. So, we’ve volunteered as tutors at a local all-age school and have taught kids’ church in the community.  In addition, we connect with local churches to share resources that support children’s Christian growth. Our home church, Fellowship Church, donated DVD’s with lessons, songs, bible stories and kids’ gear for us to give out and so far they’ve been warmly received.


What are your plans now?
With hurricane season approaching, our route has taken us as far south as we will travel this season and we’ve now pointed the bow north. We plan to continue exploring the Bahamas until the end of May, then sail back across the Gulf Stream to Florida. But, we’re not ready to end our voyage just yet. From Florida, we’d like to sail up the east coast for a few months before stepping back into land life. And probably start planning our next cruise.
Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 by  and tagged   |  

Illusion at 9 months

Read this interview as originally published on Forest & Fin.
Brian and I have been living aboard our 37′ Chris Craft sailboat,Illusion, since March 2009. Although we had originally planned to sail from Charleston, SC, to the Caribbean in November of that year, we realized (much to our dismay) that our boat was not ready to make the trip. After six weeks in the boat yard, during which point Brian rebuilt the engine and we performed projects such as replacing the mast step and keel bolts, we set sail from Hilton Head Island, SC, in May 2010 and headed north to Annapolis, MD. We spent three months there, living on the hook, working, and waiting out hurricane season. In November 2010, we departed from Annapolis, cruised south down the eastern seaboard to Miami, FL, and then across to the Bahamas.
1. Why did you decide to cruise?
Lara – When Brian came back to Charleston after crewing for a family crossing the Indian Ocean, I knew he was hooked on the idea of living and traveling on a sailboat. I had my reservations at first, but I joined him for a delivery of a catamaran from Spain to Greece in the Mediterranean – my first time sleeping on a boat smaller than a cruise ship and sailing around the clock for days. I wouldn’t say that the trip won me over, but after that, I knew I could hang. It was his dream from the beginning, but I have adapted remarkably well and grown to love it.
Brian – I traveled out of a backpack for three years after college, and during part of that time, I cruised on other peoples’ boats for transportation and adventure.  I grew up sailing, but never liked racing.  I’m basically just into interesting and challenging ways to get from Point A to Point B.  If you wanted to bike across the country, kayak the ICW, or windsurf the Bahamas I would be just as into any of those — cruising just makes it all a little bit more comfortable and long term.
grovemoorings013My first cruising experience was aboard Karaka.  Tom Blancart, the captain, takes crew on as a shared expenses-type of arrangement.  He’s an amazing guy, kind of like a social, modern version of Motissier.  Anyone who is interested in cruising and wants to get the real experience I highly recommend a few months aboard Karaka.  Check him out at http://karaka.voila.fr .
Some people like the sailing, some people like the islands, some people like the adventure, but I think we like the lifestyle the most.  Working hard, being closer to nature, living day-to-day – it’s a good life, even if it’s not always easy.
2. In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Lara – Downsizing was a huge deal for me, especially finding homes for all of my paintings and art supplies. Moving from our rented house in Charleston to the boat was difficult in terms of volume and sorting out what to bring with us, but moving out of my art studio later that year really hit me hard.
Brian – What comes to mind is the transition between moving and stopping — it’s something we battle with all the time.  Once you stop somewhere for any length of time, getting moving again can be difficult.  For us, there was also the transition between “Project Boat” and “Boat” — deciding when it was ok to start moving or whether the boat was safe/equipped to do any sort of cruising or whether or not we were being overly cautious.  I think we ended up somewhere in the middle, we definitely started cruising on a work-in-progress, Illusion is farther along than a lot of projects but not as “complete” as a lot of other boats out there cruising.  For us, we just wanted to get moving. We were prepared to work on our projects along the way instead of trying to start with a “Bristol” yacht.
3. What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Lara – Save, save, save, and make lots of sacrifices. We made it this far by living on an extremely tight budget and by Brian’s ability to renovate the boat on a shoestring using his unprecedented talent with Craigslist and Google.
Brian – I was really pig headed and refused to give up.  There were a thousand times when this seemed like it was going to be impossible, like when my engine seized, I found out the mast step was totally destroyed, and figured out the keel/hull joint was leaking. But I took everything as a challenge, knowing that one day we’d be cruising and that it didn’t matter what the problem was – every problem has a solution.  If you don’t have enough money, earn more.  If your engine doesn’t work, fix it. If you want to do it, there’s nothing keeping you from cruising but yourself.
4. How much does cruising cost?
Lara – Many of the people we meet, fellow cruisers included, seem to be puzzled by our youth. Admittedly, I look younger than I am and I am young by most standards (27), but people are constantly asking us how we can afford it. Well, the truth is that we scrape by. We buy boat toys when we can, we fix things when we can afford to, and we spend most of our nights at anchor. If we were living on land, we would probably be paying rent or paying off a mortgage; instead, Brian bought a boat (much cheaper than buying a house!) and we put our money back into the boat. We think of the boat projects as our rent and, without all the additional costs of participating in land-based living, we live on the cheap.
Brian – The typical answer – how much you have.  For us, our budget is around $1000 per month. Sometimes we come in under that and sometimes over. I spend a lot on boat goodies and my projects often break the budget, but if you anchor out, cook most of your own meals, and don’t waste money, it’s a pretty cheap lifestyle.
5. What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?
Lara – I think the biggest mistake I made (which couldn’t really be helped at the time) was letting most of the preparations in the beginning fall to Brian. The boat wasn’t ready when when we needed it to be, and I had little-to-no experience with which to help him. Although he had a great deal of sailing experience under his belt, Brian had never owned or captained a boat before Illusion, and she wasn’t in the physical shape that we had initially thought. We ended up spending a small fortune in the boatyard in South Carolina and missing our planned departure.
Brian – Underestimating how rough an offshore passage can be on the Atlantic Coast.  I’d gone a lot of ocean miles on trade winds routes and done coastal passages during periods of long settled weather, but winter weather systems build up swell for days, and even though the wind may drop to a reasonable level, the swell will still be pretty big.  We lost a dingy towing it offshore expecting settled weather but instead had a pretty rough downwind passage that shook up everything and the eye bolt tore off the dingy around 2 am while we were surfing around 10 – 11 knots.
6. What do you enjoy about cruising that you didn’t expect to enjoy?
Lara – Living according to the weather. Brian and I call it luxury camping, because unless it is cold or raining, we always have the hatches and windows open. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that when it rains, you get wet – everything gets wet. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I enjoy my foul-weather gear as I never expected to?
Brian – Engines and fiberglass work:  we had some diesel engine issues, and I was lucky enough to have a mechanically minded friend that worked with me during the rebuild. I enjoyed learning about it.  I also found working with fiberglass to be pretty intuitive and relatively simple as far as a construction material goes.
I also enjoyed cruising the ICW more than I would have expected. It was a lot of motoring, but we anchored out more-or-less every night and often in the middle-of-nowhere USA. We are in the Bahamas now, and you can’t beat the fishing and clear water, but I liked the ICW too, and wish I would have been able to spend more time at some of the random anchorages in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Another random one would be sailing with a tiller – a link of our steering chain broke in the Bahamas so we rigged up the “emergency” tiller. I found that I like sailing with it better than the wheel.  We balance better and the feedback from the boat is much more immediate.  After a few days sailing with a tiller, we’re thinking about making a permanent one.
7. What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
Lara – I was pretty spot-on beforehand about the things that I thought would bother me, but I’ve been surprised by how little they actually do get under my skin. Sure, the boat is small, it’s old, so things are still always breaking, and I hate unpacking an entire locker to get to that one thing I need, but really what gets to me more than anything else is that I don’t have the space to work on substantial art projects, and I can’t screen-print on the boat. Still trying to figure out the happy medium between cruising and making art.
Brian – Not much actually. I’d done some cruising on other boats before, so I had some idea of what this was going to be like.  I guess what I dislike most (that were unexpected to me) is how difficult it was for us to find homes for things. We don’t have much accessible storage, so we still have things without “homes” and that makes our boat feel cluttered.
8. Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
Lara – There have been a number of items that we installed after we started cruising, which we wondered why we hadn’t installed sooner: the saltwater wash-down system, the new faucet, a new head, and the long-range wireless antennae/wireless device, for example. Most of the items have to do with the level of comfort on the boat.
Brian – AIS. We still don’t have it but knowing exactly what (big commercial) ships are out there would have made for less-stressful night passages, especially in the Chesapeake Bay. It is less important in areas like the Bahamas or the islands but great for sailing along the coast of the US.  Our radar has really helped, and that was a late addition.
We did put in a saltwater wash-down pump last year that made anchoring in mud much less of a problem.  I wasn’t sure it was going to be of much use in sand, but low-and-behold having a saltwater dish-blaster has helped us conserve water.  I really wish I had bought a backup stereo though – ours died recently and cruising without music just isn’t the same!
9. What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
Lara – The unexpected situations that we find ourselves in just trying to accomplish daily tasks; whether it is a trip to the grocery store or a search for a replacement part, we make new friends everywhere. Remote anchorages are also quite exciting. It’s such a novelty to look at the stars without the interference of light pollution, and I love spotting animals along the way. From dolphins, to sea turtles, rays, birds, and even a black bear, there is always something new to see if you are looking. It is refreshing to find our lives so entwined with the environment.
Brian – Generally we’re not in it for excitement. :)   We are looking for relaxation and a more natural pace of life — but catching a fish trawling is always exciting. When the reel starts spinning, there is a rush to get to the rod and land the fish, usually followed by lots of excited shouts for “gaff! get me the gaff!!!” or “where are the pliers? I need the pliers!!” and quite possibly “where are my gloves?? This thing wants to eat my fingers!” Lara get’s to hear all of this while trying to keep us on course and out of trouble.  I’d say those are some of the most exciting moments.
The things I get most excited for are the usual, a drink at sundown, good weather, good friends, exploring islands and those rare occasions when everything just goes right.
10. What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.
Lara – We will sail Illusion around the Bahamas for a few more months before most likely circling back up to the states. I need to get back to my art practice, and it’s time for both of us to fill our bank accounts again. I imagine we will continue to live aboard, but our plans for Illusion are unclear. As young as we are, I don’t see this as an ending, but rather a beginning, and I’m sure this will not be our last sailing adventure.
Brian – Our plans are always, at best, indefinite. We always have a few options that we’re juggling, looking for the best option.  Our long term plans definitely involve cruising. We are comfortable on the water, have built up our knowledge base to the point that we are no longer beginners — though we still have infinite amounts to learn — and don’t see any point in “stopping” now.  That being said, we’re thinking about a larger boat, which means money and continuing our respective “careers.”  Lara’s art has been well received everywhere we go, so she needs a place to create that’s bigger than our boat! We’re leaning towards enjoying the Bahamas for another month or so before heading to the Chesapeake Bay for hurricane season. We hope to start hunting for a larger boat, earning money, and setting ourselves up for the long term.