Mata Hari at 5 months

Welcome Mata Hari to the ranks of the Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally posted on their blog.
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We’ve been invited to take part in Newly Salted, a series of interviews with new cruisers that we enjoyed reading as we were getting ready to embark on our own adventure. So fun to be included! For those of you who don’t know us, here’s a little introduction:
We’re Monica and Rich and we live on our 39-foot sailboat Mata Hari. We lived aboard in New York City for three and a half years before sailing down the ICW to Savannah, Georgia, where we worked and saved for another year before sailing down to the Bahamas. We also did a transatlantic crossing on a friend’s boat a few summers ago. That was an adventure! Currently, we’re back in Savannah, Georgia, after five months of cruising in Florida and the Bahamas. It’s time to find jobs and refill the cruising kitty! At the moment, it’s looking like we’ll head north to New York City.
The view from the lighthouse in Hope Town, Abacos
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
I know this has been said before, but it bears repeating: It’s not all umbrella drinks and sunshine! There are going to be those days where you’re stuck on the boat with rain and 30-knot winds. And it might not just be one day, but six or seven days in a row. I envisioned us hopping from island to island every few days and, at least in the Bahamas, it didn’t always work out that way. So plan accordingly! Bring lots of reading material and put movies and TV shows on your hard drive before you go (this last part was something we failed to do and I will definitely be working on stockpiling things to watch next time). On the plus side, we read tons of books, something we rarely had time to do back on land.
As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Since we lived aboard for four years before we left, and made our way down the U.S. coast in stages, adjusting to cruising wasn’t all that hard for us. We did miss our family and friends, but we were able to keep in touch with phone and texts. It helped that a couple of friends came to visit! However, after a couple of months of rum drinks and beautiful beaches we did start to get antsy and feel weird about not having jobs and that sense of purpose and needing to be someplace every day. I also didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get enough exercise. When the wind is howling, it can be challenging to go ashore for a walk or do yoga or paddleboard. I know, our life is really rough, isn’t it??!!
Paddleboarding at Saddleback Cay, just before a run-in with three lemon sharks
What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?
We did run aground just as we were leaving Savannah and were really worried that we’d damaged our keel, but fortunately it was in soft mud and everything was fine. We also broke off our throttle lever in Florida, which was an excellent introduction to the concept of cruising being just fixing your boat in exotic locations. It was a very expensive oops! Of course we broke the lever on a Friday, so even with rush shipping, we still didn’t get the part until the following Wednesday. All of this meant we meant we spent a lot of time at a marina that we weren’t planning on being at racking up slip fees and wishing we were on our way to the Bahamas.
Also, we might’ve overdone it on the canned goods when we provisioned. We tried to strike a balance between bringing enough for a few months and buying fresh produce when we arrived. Overall, we did pretty well, but we still have some canned stuff that I’m frankly getting a little sick of. Next time, we’ll know better. I also planned to bake bread and pizza and bought a lot of flour, but I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. My pizza and bread game frankly isn’t great, but I’m working on it. Hoping to give this recipe from the New York Times that a cruiser friend shared with us a try soon. On the plus side, we did use the masa we brought for making corn tortillas. Homemade tortillas are surprisingly easy to make and delicious, especially when you’re making fish tacos with the mahi your husband just caught. Yum!
 What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
The sheer delight of sailing your boat to another country will never get old. I also really enjoyed meeting locals and learning about the Bahamian culture and getting to know some of our fellow cruisers. Actually getting ourselves to the Bahamas after nearly five years of working on the boat and planning was the culmination of a lot of dreaming and it still blows my mind that we actually did it!
Also, the color of the water in the Bahamas is legendary for a reason. We couldn’t get enough of that bluer than blue water that you could see to the bottom of as if you were in a swimming pool. Looking at pictures now, I’m still amazed! Snorkeling was also pretty fantastic with that incredible visibility. After a lot of time at the dock back in New York, getting to play on our stand-up paddleboard and our kayak was a blast.
Mata Hari at anchor off Shroud Cay in the Exumas
What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
We loved all the beautiful beaches, but you can get beautiful beach overload. It shouldn’t come as that much of a shock to me because I’m a total city person, but at times I needed a break from nature in the Bahamas. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our time in the Bahamas, but I’m also looking forward to sailing further south and visiting countries with more to do onshore. Rich loves cities and wilderness, but he’s a big nature boy. We always say that he could win Survivor if he was a contestant. Seriously, he’s the guy you want with you on that desert island.
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?
We’d heard that the cruising community is one big happy family, but we definitely didn’t become instant friends with everyone we met. Then again, we don’t get along with everyone back home so why should that be any different out there?
Also, everyone told us that food was crazy expensive in the Bahamas, which for the most part was true, but Bahamians gotta eat too! Some things, such as American packaged foods like crackers and tortilla chips were a luxury we rarely indulged in at three times the price back home, but produce and eggs were often only slightly more than we were used to paying or sometimes less. Everyone says pack for the apocalypse and while you do pay a premium for the imported goods in the Bahamas, the truth is you’re going to want to eat fresh stuff when it’s available and we were willing to pay a little bit more for it when we could get our hands on it. Next time, we’ll pack lighter.
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?
The cruising community is made up of people who’ve got your back when the going gets tough. For the most part, we found this to be true. A friend we’d met back in Savannah, Georgia, where we spent a year working after leaving New York, gave us a kayak when we ran into him in Miami. Just like in small-town America where you can knock on your neighbor’s door and borrow a cup of sugar, we were able to get on the VHF and borrow a couple of eggs from a friend when we ran out while waiting out some weather. Friends with a watermaker (something we don’t have) insisted on filling our jerry cans for us when they were making water for themselves. It was also nice to be able to give back too. Rich had a lot of tools on the boat and was able to repair someone else’s rudder, allowing him to safely complete a passage. He also had the knowledge to explain to another cruiser how to nurse his sickly engine well enough to get home.
Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?
A dog! I know that probably sounds crazy, but we had a dog before we started out on this adventure and we’re getting to the point where we really want another four-legged friend in our lives. Maybe not right now, but one day soon we’re hoping to adopt one. I know that opens up a whole new host of issues, but we’ll figure it all out when the time comes.
Meanwhile, I really wish we had a bimini. We had one when we bought the boat, but Rich gave it to a neighbor. We were planning on installing a solar arch before we left, but ran out of time and money. That shade would have been mighty nice for the tail end of our trip when we were crossing back to Florida and basically sitting in the cockpit sweating off all of our sunscreen. We wound up resorting to using umbrellas to keep cool! A solar arch and solar panels would also have been nice for off-the-grid living, but we did just fine charging our battery bank the old-fashioned way (running our engine every few days). I guess that’s the advantage of not having a lot of fancy systems on board. We mainly needed to keep the refrigerator cold, our anchor light on at night, and charge our iPads and computer, so our energy needs were pretty small.
On the plus side, our new Beta 38 engine is the best piece of gear we’ve invested in. Rich installed it himself before we left New York and I couldn’t be prouder of him. The peace of mind of hearing that engine fire up every time we’ve needed it was worth all the money (and blood, sweat—mostly Rich’s!—and tears—mine!).
Oh, and the refrigerator and freezer he built was worth its weight in gold. To have fresh food and ice in our drinks made being in paradise that much sweeter.
We also love the nesting dinghy Rich built. It’s pretty and practical. The smaller piece “nests” inside the bigger piece for easy stowing on the foredeck.
Rich manning our dinghy
What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Maybe our sewing machine. We have a Sailirite and love it, but we didn’t really need it at any point in the trip. Otherwise, we don’t really have a ton of gear on our boat. We also had a lot of spare parts and materials, which we were fortunate enough not to have needed, though they did take up a lot of room. To paraphrase Clarence in True Romance, it’s better to have spares and not need them than need them and not have them.
What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.
We’re not independently wealthy so we’re heading back to New York City to find jobs. We’d like to get to the Caribbean next fall, but we will probably need to work a while to make enough money for another trip. I thought I wouldn’t like this part, but strangely, now that it’s happening I’m okay with breaking up our cruising into smaller bites. I love cruising but I also love being back on land in the city. It’s all about the contrasts!
What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I’ve asked you and how would you answer it?
I’m always curious about how people fund their adventures. 
The answer to that question for us is simple: We work and save. But I’m always looking for a better way to do that, especially one that we can use to keep us out there longer. I write and edit books on a freelance basis, which I’m working on making a more viable means of supporting us while we’re out there next time. I did a few projects while we were in the Bahamas, but the Internet connectivity was too iffy at times for me to be able to reliably commit the whole time we were there. In addition to being an amazing sailor, Rich is a designer, but also pretty handy with everything from carpentry to diesel mechanics. For next time, we’re contemplating the possibility of stopping somewhere along the way down south where we can legally work and getting jobs to refill the cruising kitty. Working while you’re cruising seems to be a controversial topic for some, but we’d rather work while we’re out there than not go at all. Of course, there’s always the lottery!
Posted on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 by  and tagged   |  

Inspiration at 9 months


Welcome Inspiration to the ranks of the Newly Salted. Read this interview as original published on their blog.

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

Inspiration Sailing:  Just “fair winds”, “enjoy” or “good luck” and of course “see you soon”.  That is all I needed, really.  Actually got a lot of that from family and friends, so that was good.

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

IS:  That was pretty smooth.  Have been on boats so many times before, that I knew pretty much what to expect.  One difference is that when you embark a long term cruising project, you need to think about maintenance of the boat that much more than when you just sail for a few days or a couple of weeks.  If you want to cruise far, you need the boat to be properly maintained at all times.  The boat can really give you plenty of nautical miles if you take good care of it!

NS: What mistakes did you make before you started cruising?

IS:  There are so many resources available in the public domain to study in order to prepare a cruising project, that you should at least be avoiding basic mistakes.  So many individuals successfully sailed around the world before you even planned to do so:  learn from them and customize their advice to your specific project requirements.  In addition, the latest technology and equipment available on modern yachts make cruising life easier, safer and more comfortable.  But, seamanship remains an absolute requirement, of course.

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

IS: All aspects of it are pretty cool, really.  The idea of traveling around using the wind is exciting.  Discovering new places, new people, new cultures is exciting.  Especially when these places are preserved and stunning.  Cruising allows access to some of the last sanctuaries of our Planet.  That is a unique proposition.

NS: What is something that you read or heard about cruising that you did not find true?

IS: I actually found the cruising literature pretty accurate.  There are tons of good publications out there that are really helpful in preparing a cruising project.

NS: What is something that you read or heard about cruising that you find particularly accurate?

IS: “Just do it”.  Most seasoned cruisers actually say this no the new comers.  And that is very true.  I would add that this is important to have your own project:  do not try to exactly follow someone else’s footsteps. Having you own personal objectives and timeframe is essential for a successful project.

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

IS: I installed pretty much all I wanted on the boat before I started cruising.  I could have out more solar panels.  Not to state the obvious, ability to generate electricity (and water) is paramount for long term cruising projects.  You never have enough.  Redundancy is also important concept: having backups for all key equipment of the boat proves to be helpful if any failure happens at sea.

NS: What piece of gear would you leave on the dock next time?  Why?

IS: Any electric gear is typically more trouble than helpful.  As such, air conditioning, electric toilet, electric gadgets are to be left behind.  Simplicity is the secret of happy cruising.

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

IS: Will move on to an entrepreneurial project.  My cruising project was a both a lifetime experience and a transition to a new professional project.  Life goes on.  I may be cruising again once I retire.  In the meantime, I will remember this lifetime experience until my last day.  Unforgettable memories!

NS: Tell us about the genesis of the Inspiration Sailing cruising project?

IS: The project was born in late 2015.  After 8 months of methodical preparation, I set sails on July 31, 2016 from South of France.  The stated objective is to reach Australia in about 13 months (i.e. by August 31, 2017) following the well-known sailing routes across the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, West Indies, Panama, and the Pacific Ocean.

The idea is to discover some of the most beautiful parts of the world, while getting the full benefits of the trade wind, the sea, the sun, the moon, the stars and the spectacle of marine life…and to share all of this with my crew members, as well as others via the project blog (www.inspirationsailing.com).

NS: Why did you decide to go cruising around the globe?

IS: I believe that in life there is a time to do things, a time to create, a time to produce, a time to be agitated, a time to be under pressure to perform and deliver results, a time for hard accomplishments.  But, there is also a time to stop doing, to watch, to observe, to contemplate, to meditate, to take attitude, to appreciate simple things such as the lights, colors, shapes of nature and the surrounding scenery…

From this time “out of time” which I refer to as “empty” time, we have an opportunity analyze the World from a different angle, generate new ideas, prepare for new projects, learn new skills, get ready for new challenges, with a renewed perspective over our life.

As I am cruising around, new ideas and projects naturally come to my mind so that life after cruising is also taking shape as nautical miles go by.  As such, this project is becoming a complete life experience.

NS: How did you prepare for this cruising trip?

IS: I thought about this project in great details, very much professionally, in fact pretty much as you would think of a startup business.  All aspects have been analyzed thoroughly:  choice of the boat and equipment, crew selection, cruising itinerary and timing, cost and budget, personal objectives, life post cruising, etc.

Sailing across oceans is a serious enterprise and by no mean, I wanted to jump into the unknown.  I am not the type of person who goes at sea undercooked, so safety considerations were paramount.  This is a wonderful challenge to complete a long term cruising project and be safe.  This is also an absolute priority.

NS: Why did you call your cruising project “Inspiration”?

IS: The concept was to inspire the crew coming on board, as well as third parties following the trip.  Quite a few people actually dream about such a trip, but are unable to do it for multiple reasons.  I thought it was important to share this adventure with others, which is actually made easy by technology (should the Internet be available!)

At least one other person I know decided to buy his own boat and to prepare an ambitious family cruising project around the world following my footsteps.  A film maker approached me, as he would like to spend time on the boat to film a story.  The Newly Salted project initiated this interview…So Inspiration Sailing was not a bad name for the project after all.

I am pleased not only to realize a dream experience, but also to share it and to inspire to others the benefits of “empty” time.  That should be mandatory for everyone at least once in a lifetime!  Life is made of experiences and challenges.  Preparing my cruising project and executing it proved to be both exciting and rewarding so far: clearly a tremendously fulfilling experience.

NS: Where do you currently stand in this project?

IS: Sailing Yacht Inspiration is currently anchored in Huahine, French Polynesia with about 16,000 nautical miles under its keel, including 2 ocean crossings, since the project started.  I can say that we are approximately 75% of the way, but the good news is that the remainder of the trip across the Pacific is looking rather exciting!

Over the last 10 months or so, I validated a lot of the decisions made during project preparation.  Yet I keep learning every day and both the crew and the boat still have a long way to go (over 3,000 nautical miles left).  So the adventure continues and I feel that the best part of the trip is yet to come.

As of the time of this interview the project running on time and budget.  But I have to say that the overall experience has been well beyond expectations, which I could not know in advance!

IS: What did you learn along the way during your cruising time?

IS: Inherent with these types of projects, you will be faced with unforeseen situations, new types of problems that are only specific to the life at seas.  Take it as an opportunity to improve your problem solving skills.  There is always a solution, even though it may not be obvious at first sight.

One other aspect is expanding your knowledge to many different topics:  from celestial navigation to weather patterns and forecasting, from ocean wildlife to geology…   I learned that cruising around the world is pure luxury: luxury of a certain form of freedom.

Finally, crossing oceans is a test for your level of preparation.  You can only rely on yourself and your own decisions out there.   You need to be 100% autonomous for a few weeks in row, far away from the land.   You cannot cheat, you cannot lie, but you can only learn about yourself.
Posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 by  and tagged   |  

Rhapsody at 6 Months

Welcome Rhapsody to the ranks of the Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally posted on their blog.

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Newly Salted is a website that posts interviews of cruisers that have been cruising for less than two years. I read all of these interviews before we started cruising, and dreamt of the time when I could be a part of this project. Now we have officially been cruising for 6 months and I am excited to be able to participate.

A little about us: We are Bob and Sarah aboard Rhapsody, our 49' Jeanneau Sun Odyssey. We sold off our belongings in Oregon and began cruising in November of 2016. We bought Rhapsody in the BVI and that is where we began our journey through the Caribbean. You can follow our story at rhapsodyontheblue.com

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
Sarah- We got into cruising as a way to travel and have our own bed with us, so the travel and seeing new countries is what I find the most exciting.  Meeting people along the way, the quick friendships that form, and getting to do it all with my best friend. I like being able to move to a new place on a whim, or stay put if we find somewhere that we really like.

What is something that you think potential cruisers are afraid of that they shouldn't fear? And what is something potential cruisers don't worry about that perhaps they should? 
Bob- Cruisers should not worry about the details of breaking free and beginning cruising. They should focus on the wonderful opportunity before them and remember that the overall experience will be worth it.  Don't sweat the small things, get away from the dock.
They should worry about knowing their boat, having enough information to stay ahead of repairs with the right maintenance first. This will keep you safer and happier. If you know your boat you will have less to worry about.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising that you found to be particularly accurate? 
Sarah - Don't make schedules. We learned this the hard way. We agreed to meet my brother in Martinique in March.  We made plans with him in January while we were still in the BVI, thinking that we would have plenty of time. We ended up going through countries much faster than we would have liked, leaving friends behind us in our wake. The flip side of this is that we were able to get a taste of the countries to whet our appetites for further exploration. Part of the beauty of cruising is that we can come back. As for friends, we are meeting more people, and have hopes that friends that we have made will catch up with us now that we have slowed down again.

What is something that you were dreading about cruising when you were dreaming that is as bad or worse than imagined?
Bob - Loud music from the beach. Bass pounding, large speakers aimed out at the anchorage, vibrating the hull until 3 AM.

Tell me your favorite thing about your boat.
Sarah- On a day to day basis I love the space that we have. The salon and the cockpit are both spacious and very comfortable to be in. On passage I love the feeling of safety that I get. Rhapsody is a strong boat and I am sure that she can handle much bigger seas and worse weather than I can.

Share a piece of cruising etiquette. 
Bob - Anchor as far as is reasonably possible from the surrounding boats while recognizing that besides added safety many of us prefer a little privacy. If we can hold a conversation with you from our boat to yours in normal tones, you are too close.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising that you didn't find to be true?
Bob - We had heard that we might need to budget $300 - $500 a month for Customs, Immigration and various fees for checking in and out of countries. We have found that checking in and out of countries from Puerto Rico to Grenada has not at any point been particularly difficult nor expensive. We probably have spent about $150 on this in 6 months.

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
Sarah - Rolly anchorages.  We did a lot of research about cruising before we started,  and I even read solutions that people had for stopping the rolling,  but all my research was done on land or in calm anchorages so somehow it didn't really sink in how it would feel. We have been fortunate to have experienced only a few really rolly anchorages, but that left enough of an impression that we avoid them whenever possible.

What is the key to making the cruising life enjoyable? 
Bob - A take-it-easy attitude combined with the right focus to keep the boat maintained, but most of all, a willing partner.

What are your plans now?
Sarah - One other thing that we have learned is the saying "a cruiser's plans are written in the sand at low tide". We have experienced this often as weather, health and friends can quickly change whatever plans we had carefully crafted. Our big picture "plan" is to spend the summer hurricane season in Grenada, possibly exploring Trinidad and/or Tobago. Early in the fall we would like to head to Bonaire to go diving and then in November head north to Puerto Rico to begin the loop again, slowing down for the parts we missed on the first go round. 

Unless something else comes up.

Final thoughts
Sarah -  As I am re-reading our answers there seems to be more negativity than we feel in reality. Rolly anchorages,  loud music, rushing for schedules. The truth is, we are really enjoying this lifestyle. The freedom to go where we want to go, the wonderful people we are meeting, and new places we are experiencing.  I am sitting in the cockpit, looking out at the turquoise waters surrounding the green islands with white sand beaches and I have a big smile on my face. Our intention is to keep doing this until it is no longer fun, and we are firmly ensconced in the fun zone now.

Posted on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by  and tagged   |  

Ruby Rose at 12 months

Welcome Ruby Rose to the ranks of the Newly Salted! Read this interview as originally posted on their blog.

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There’s an awesome blog called Newly Salted who interview cruisers that have been underway for less than 2 years. Here’s our responses to “10 questions with Ruby Rose” about liveabord cruising. I hope this information might be useful or interesting to our readers and it’s a great way to round up our impressions of a year of cruising on Ruby Rose!


This selfie was taken as we left Conyer almost one year ago- wow, Nick’s hair was so short!

  • What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
    Well, people did tell us but we didn’t listen- slow down! We looked at a chart and said, “Oh yeah, we can definitely cover that distance in a season, no problem!” But the reality is that after 6 months, we started to feel tired, frustrated and increasingly irritable with our schedule because we had set ourselves a timetable that was unrealistic. Well, perhaps it was realistic, but certainly not enjoyable. I wish I’d listened to people who told us that we shouldn’t rush, but it’s the type of thing you can only learn yourself!
  • As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
    We had undertaken two ‘shakedown’ cruises on Ruby Rose to France the previous two summers before our actual departure. Both sailing trips were about a month long, and although we were in holiday mode, it gave us a real insight into what living on board would be like when we did it for real. We also lived on board for about 6 months before we actually left the UK, so the transition was a slow one and we didn’t find it difficult at all. The main luxuries we miss are regular hot water, air-conditioning and a front loading fridge!
  • What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
    Do I have to pick just one!? We love discovering and exploring new places, people and countries, and I suppose that’s the most exciting aspect of cruising. We also find the freedom we have exhilarating- to think we could simply point our bow in any direction and go wherever we like! We also love meeting new people and making new friends- that is one of the best things about cruising.
  • What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
    I asked Nick this question and he replied, “Sailing!” It’s true. We thought we’d have ‘champagne’ sailing as soon as we reached the tropics- we couldn’t have been more wrong! Sailing in the Caribbean isn’t always pleasant. In fact, it’s often quite unpleasant. We’ve whinged about this to plenty of people who have just looked at us like we’re a couple of aliens- or, more accurately, like we not ‘real’ sailors.  But we just don’t like 2 metre swell on the beam and beating into 20 knots- sorry! Yes, we’ve had some very quick sails between the islands. No, we haven’t enjoyed the majority of them.
  • Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?
    We had planned to only use renewable energy- wind generator and solar panels- but we also really love Nespresso coffee and watching DVD’s at night which takes up more power than our renewables produce. We weren’t realistic about what our energy requirements were, and we also didn’t want the expense of a generator set or a suitcase generator. Plus, we wanted to be green! But after a year on board, we’ve decided to go ahead and buy a generator so that we never have to spend a windless, cloudy day without the convenience of our electronic devices ever again…
    We also wish we had bought a watermaker with a much higher output (ours produces 12 litres/hour)- at the moment we have to run it for several hours to top-up the tanks, and I’ve already mentioned our issues with power at anchor!
    One last thing. We bought a soft-bottomed dinghy with a 3hp outboard for this cruise, but we wish we had a RIB and a more powerful outboard. We’ll be upgrading as soon as we can!
  • Tell me your favourite thing about your boat.
    We adore our Southerly 38, Ruby Rose . Our favourite features are the big cockpit, the big aft cabin and the big saloon. Sensing a theme? Yes, she had a huge amount of living space for the length and other sailors who come on board are always surprised at how spacious our boat is. We also love her lifting keel, as going aground is one less thing we need to worry about (we hope!) and it means we can get into shallow anchorages. We think our boat is beautiful, comfortable to live on and she is very seaworthy.
  • Tell me your least favourite thing about your boat.
    All that living space comes at a cost- we have very little storage space on Ruby Rose  or room for plant machinery. We’d love a bigger fuel tank, a bigger water tank, and a gen set. We also heartily dislike our top-loading fridge- any time we want something from the baskets down the bottom we have to empty the contents of the fridge completely in order to get to it! Needless to say, we try not to use the baskets if we can help it.
  • What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why. 
    We will definitely continue cruising! We’re storing Ruby Rose  in Antigua for hurricane season which has the double benefit of reducing the risk of damage if a hurricane does come through (plus we’re insured if it’s on the hard and tied down) and gives us 6 months to visit our families, travel and enjoy the conveniences of being a ‘land lubber’ for a time. We’re already looking forward to next season where we will (probably) continue north and visit the BVI, Bahamas and then cruise the East Coast of the USA. After that, who knows- but we have no desire to go back to bricks and mortar permanently. If we can continue to fly home periodically, we will likely carry on cruising for many years to come.
  • Is there anywhere you sailed to that was a disappointment? 
    The Tobago Cays! I thought it would be like paradise- but it was so disappointing! It was like a carpark: there were so many boats at anchor, it was like a forest of masts all around us! The boat boys hassled us and yes, we saw turtles which was awesome, but we’ve snorkelled with turtles many times since. The anchorage was also completely open to the wind which was blowing upwards of 20 knots while we were there, so it was generally not particularly pleasant. We left after one night.
  • What are your impressions of the cruising community? 
    One of the best things about cruising on Ruby Rose is meeting such an interesting mix of people. We have met young couples who barely have enough money to eat- but are living their dream anyway!- and retirees who have recently left very lucrative jobs, have bought the multi-million dollar yacht, and expect everyone they come across to drop to their knees in bowing acquiescence. We’ve met families who are cruising with their children and homeschooling, cruisers who have been living in the Caribbean for 15 years, couples on a 6 month sabbatical, and everyone in between. Even though there’s a minority of the sailing community we try and avoid like the plague, in the most part everyone is friendly, interesting, and sociable. Generally sailors are extremely generous with their time and experience, and if you need help or a spare part or another set of hands, there’s always someone nearby willing to help.
Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 by  and tagged   |  

Helio at 6 months

Welcome Helios! Read this interview as originally published on their blog.
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[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).
Posted on Monday, August 31, 2015 by  and tagged   |