Nyon at 15 Months

Welcome Kyra and Rick to Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally published on their blog. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Canucks abroad
We are Rick and Kyra, our homeport is Victoria, BC, Canada. Our floating home is the sailing vessel Nyon. A Lapworth 36, Nyon is a 54 year old wooden sailboat that we refitted over a period of 4 years. (Admittedly we are still in the process of refitting her, but she is a solid bluewater boat.) We have been cruising full-time for 15 months. In September 2011, we sailed  from Canada, down the west coast of the United States, and into Mexico. We have been cruising in Mexico since November 2011. We are now in the Sea of Cortez. It is our hope to continue cruising for as long as it is possible (and fun), stopping to replenish the cruising kitty when need be. There are still countless places we would like to explore, including the South Pacific. You can follow our adventures on our blog. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Kyra: The funny thing is, people told us a lot of things. We had some great resources: Friends who’d cruised extensively, like-minded individuals who encouraged us to go simply and go now. They would mention certain discomforts or challenges they’d come across, and I would nod. I realize now that I did not always grasp what they meant, or did not see how affected by certain things I would be until I actually experienced them for myself. For example, our friend Barb talked about the boat’s motion when you’re offshore, and how it can still be exhausting and frustrating even in not-so-terrible conditions. I grimaced, but was thinking “Really, how bad can it be, unless we're in a storm!” It can be bad, let me tell you. I’m ashamed to admit that I have had temper tantrums after running into the same table corner 5 times in 20 minutes of rolly seas. This is a roundabout way of saying, we were told plenty, we just needed to have our own experiences.
Rick:  It won't be the experience you expect it to be. Some things that you think will be hard, will be manageable.  Some things that you think will be easy, will drive you crazy. Things you hadn't really thought about will become the things you most look forward to. 

At anchor in the Sea of Cortez
Of the changes, choices and compromises you had to make along the way, which were you happiest and most satisfied about, which do you wish you had chosen otherwise and why?
Kyra: We started cruising abroad without a watermaker – for our first year in Mexico, we lugged “garrafons” of water to the boat. Sometimes it was a real hassle; often it was just another boat job. Through a series of events, we had the opportunity to buy a second-hand watermaker which Rick installed at anchor while we were in the northern half of the Sea of Cortez. It still feels like a luxury to be able to make water at will. It has allowed us to go farther afield, and be away from “civilization” for longer periods of time. While cruising is more than doable without one, we are very happy to have a watermaker now. (Of course, we had to compromise stowage, which is limited at best on Nyon, that’s an ongoing challenge, made just a little harder with a watermaker. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.)
Rick: In our pre-cruising life, we questioned a lot of the default choices made by peers, family, and our cutlure in general. We tried to make choices that were right for us. Sometimes our choices were outlandish, and sometimes they were common; but either way, we tried to make our choices consciously. We are happiest with the choices that took us off the usual path, or kept us in a great anchorage, after other boats had moved on.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?
Kyra: I would like to have an SSB radio – especially for when we cross to the South Pacific – I can see how only having an SSB receiver and maybe a SAT phone would be more isolating. And I like the idea of being able to use Sailmail to let our loved ones know we’re okay when we are “out there”. The debate on that one continues aboard Nyon.  Also, it would have been nice to be better prepared for the amount of snorkeling and fishing we are now doing – however, this has not stopped us from pursuing our new passions.
Rick: Coming from cold water sailing grounds, we underestimated the amount of time we would spend, and  number of things we would do in the water. We should have had more, and better snorkeling gear, including spares. We took up spearfishing, with a pole-spear, and hook and line fishing. We could have brought more of the basic fishing gear with us. A lot of the gear available in Mexico is very expensive, for the elite sport fishing business. Then there are toys like kayaks, boogie boards, surf boards, kite-boarding outfits, etc.  If we had the money, and space, we would have it all. 
As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Kyra: I think what I found hardest was not having my close friends nearby, we have been fortunate in that they’ve come to visit us while we’ve been cruising in Mexico, but it’s not the same as weekly coffee, art dates and gab sessions. Having said that, we are lucky to have met some great folks while cruising (whom we are sure to develop steadfast friendships with); but friendships take time to grow and deepen, so at times I have struggled with the loneliness that comes with a transient life.
Rick: It was challenging to be alone together all of the time. We are both social people, but when we initially started traveling, we had few opportunities to get to know people. We would sometimes go weeks without anything more than superficial conversations with strangers. Many of the boats we connected with, sailed off in different directions. We were probably about 8 months in, before we started connecting with boats that had similar cruising plans. We really miss our close circle of friends. 

Nyon doing what she does best
Photo courtesy of  Tom (SV Eagle)
What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?
Kyra: Oh, I know we’ve made lots of mistakes – when you’re new at something like voyaging, you’re bound to. What’s important is learning from those mistakes. More specifically, I mindlessly assumed that once I was out there, I would take to the lifestyle just like that. I realize now that it takes time to develop a variety of skills when you are actually voyaging, and they don’t necessarily come naturally or quickly. Another big lesson we had to learn was to limit the number of things on our to-do list in a day. You’ll hear or read over and over again how long it takes to get anything done. Grocery shopping can be a half day to a whole day trek, etc. We have learned to limit what we expect to get done in a day, which means we have a better chance to get that ”feeling of accomplishment” instead of coming up short, and being exhausted and grumpy at the end of the day.
Rick: We spent our first 2 months cruising doing a lot of passagemaking. We were under-weigh for an average of over 50 hours per week. We were moving along at a rate where we didn't feel like we could really enjoy each place we stopped. The cruising was exciting, but it felt a lot more like work than an escape. This is what we had prepared for; our boat in motion all of the time. Once we slowed down, we began to realize that cruising is really about enjoying the place you are in. We spend almost all of our time at anchor, only moving along when we really want to. Our focus and expectations had been very passage-centric. We weren't mentally prepared, or as outfitted as we would have liked, for enjoying ourselves at anchor.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
Kyra: Voyaging on a sailboat is not boring and that’s exciting! There is no room for monotony. Some days I’m restless or frustrated, but I’m never bored. I love discovering new passions, developing my skills as a sailor, observing the wildlife, being at one with nature, pushing my comfort zone to new levels, and learning about a different culture.
Rick: A good sail is still pretty great. There is nothing like reaching in a fifteen knot breeze with your destination appearing over the horizon. Fishing has become a lot of fun. I never really did much fishing back home, so my enjoyment of fishing has come as a bit of a surprise. I particularly like spearfishing. Seeing all of the different fish in the reefs is great, and there is something thrilling in the hunt, especially if it is successful.
What is something about the cruising culture you like and what is something you dislike?
Kyra:) One thing we'd heard and read, was how helpful the cruising community is. Complete strangers will offer assistance in all kinds of amazing ways. In our experience, we found this to be absolutely true. We have witnessed an inherent generosity of spirit  time and again within this community. This is two-fold, however, cruisers can also be very opinionated and pushy with how you should tackle a problem or issue - and that can be exhausting and frustrating at times, especially when we disagree. This also brings up the herd mentality that sometimes takes over the cruising community. There can be some bullying if you choose the "wake less traveled" - I think you need to be comfortable with your plans and choices, whether or not the next two boats agree with you - it is important to build trust in yourself and your boat. We have also found that we are often the youngest ones around. And we are not that young: 40 and 43 years old respectively. We don’t usually care how old people are, if we click with them, we click. Some of our favourite cruisers are our parents’ age – but sometimes it is also nice to hang out with people our own age or younger. You connect on a different level.
Rick: The cruising community has the village mentality of helpfulness and inclusion, that has disappeared from our home land-based culture. Boats are not only willing, but also able to help each other out with emergencies, and minor troubles. The more boats there are in a particular area, the more political the community becomes. I don't like the politics that are part of the bigger ports. The resources in the bigger ports draw us in, but the petty politics make the more remote anchorages even more attractive.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
Kyra: Me personally – I heard people say it can be boring. I don’t find cruising boring. Sure there are times I feel restless, but bored? Never. I’m pretty good at keeping myself busy and am getting better at sitting still, and staring out at the sea.
Rick: We heard that the people you meet along the way become instant close friends. The reality is that we have a lot in common with fellow cruisers, but we make friends, and develop depth in friendships in the same way we did before we left. 
What is the key to make the cruising life enjoyable?
Kyra: Attitude. It’s all about attitude. I’m not saying I always have the right attitude, but it certainly helps me cope with unexpected challenges more constructively when I manage to have a positive attitude. Also, being open to what is, (instead of pining for what-should-be), has allowed us to appreciate this incredible adventure all the more.
Rick: Life is still life, while you are out in paradise. You leave behind a lot of the responsibilities and baggage that is common with a shore-bound life. However, you get used to what is normal. One sunny day, after  another sunny day, with beautiful sunsets, and warm waters become your everyday experience, you realize that your enjoyment of life isn't dependent on your lifestyle. Don't wait to enjoy life, until you are anchored off a tropical island sipping rum and coconut water out of a fresh green coconut. Learn to enjoy life now, and then take that enjoyment cruising. 
How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Kyra: Go sailing, in all kinds of weather conditions. Learn to work on boat projects at anchor. Seriously, get off the dock as often as possible, even if you have to motor to get to an anchorage. It’s important to experience a variety of conditions – you will find you need to adjust things such as: Where you stow certain items, what you require for comfort, etc. This was especially true for us, as we mostly anchor out. In 2012, we stayed at a dock for a total of 4 nights. Living aboard, (at least for a little while), ahead of time is not a bad idea either – There is enough to adapt to as it is, once you begin to cruise full-time. We lived aboard for 4 year in the PNW prior to going cruising, we figured out how to give each other space in a diminutive living arrangement, as well as how to move around each other as we go about our daily activities. Finally, I also spent a lot of time reading a variety of cruising blogs – it’s inspiring, informative, and fun! 
Rick: Go sailing. Go frequently. Get out for as long as you can. The only way to figure how you want to set up your boat, is to use it. Use it in all kinds of conditions. Live on your boat. The only way to figure out how you want to set up your boat is to spend time on it. Get used to day to day living aboard. Make sure your berth is comfortable. Learn how to make the most of the stowage you have available. Every crew has different goals, a different cruising style, a different boat. What is a good decision for one crew, is not necessarily right for another. Consider the advice you get, try it on in your head and see if it seems to fit. You and your boat will never be ready, so cast off the dock lines and get ready along the way.