Saturday, April 19, 2014

Newly Salted Interview - Kintala at 6 months

We've decided to participate in the Newly Salted interview process on our blog here. Instead of conducting individual interviews, what they do now is to have you pick 10 or so of their questions in their question bank and answer them on your blog. Then you send them the link and they post it on their site. You include a summary of who you are and why you went cruising, along with a picture. I've chosen a picture that our friend John took of our boat which is the most awesome picture we have of Kintala and I intend to put it on our home page as soon as I have reliable enough wifi to be fiddling with blogger's template, which for any of you who have a blogger blog know is a huge pain in the derrière.

Answering the questions was good for me. It helped me to probe my feelings about cruising on this, our 6 month anniversary of leaving, so we answered many more than the 10 questions they allow. I thought we would post the ones we answered here and then let you, the reader, pick the 10 you like best and would like to see posted on the Newly Salted website. When we settle on 10 or so then we'll submit. Just list your 10 picks in a comment and we'll decide within the next few days. Have at it!

Kintala at 6 months

Photo courtesy of our good friend and fellow cruiser, John Dakins
For those of you who might not know us, we're Tim and Deb of the Tartan 42 Kintala and of The Retirement Project site. After nearly 7 years of planning, of which 4 years was on a learner boat and 3 years refitting our current cruiser, we cut the dock lines on October 19th of 2013. We decided to go cruising for two major reasons: because we wanted to retire early and we didn't have sufficient funds to do that in a land-based retirement, and because we've been becoming increasingly disenchanted with the political and economical status quo in the US. Today is our 6 month anniversary so it seemed appropriate to review and evaluate. Having used both the Interview With a Cruiser and Newly Salted sites for some of our pre-departure knowledge, we thought it particularly appropriate to use that venue for our evaluation. We are deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to our preparation. Websites, blogs, friends, all became an intimate part of our readiness. Hopefully we have paid it forward to those who are still stuck in cubicle land and dreaming. We're here to say that the dream is definitely worth pursuing.

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

Deb: Solar Panels. Since Tim's company closed his department before we were quite done with the boat, some things had to wait due to limited funds and the solar panels was one of them. We do OK with the Honda generator, but it would be nice to have a quiet source of power that would allow sitting in the cockpit without the generator noise. Don't get me wrong – as far as generators go, the Honda is the best and the quietest, but I'd still rather have less noise.

Tim: Inverter and WiFi extender. Being “off the grid” is better when it is a choice of just hitting the “off” switch and using “cruising” as the excuse for not bothering with email.

2. Is there a place you visited that you wish you could have stayed longer?

Deb: I wish we could have spent some time in Coinjock. We were in such a hurry coming down the ICW because of the cold that we didn't have time to stop. I also wish we had stopped in Allen's Pensacola in the Abacos but we were traveling with a friend who had a deadline to meet and then later, when we had time, the wind was from the wrong direction. We'll get back there for sure.

Tim: We have been many places I want to visit again but, so far, we haven't sailed away from anywhere when I really wanted to stay.

3. When you are offshore, what keeps you awake at night (that is, what worries you most)?

Deb: One of us falling off the boat. We wear our life jackets and we're tethered in after dark (an unbreakable rule) so it's a totally irrational fear, but it's there just the same.

Tim: Weather. Which probably means I should add “Satellite WX” the list of things I wish we had installed

4. Tell me what is your favorite thing is about about the boat.

Deb: The way the light plays off the teak inside in the morning sunshine. I love the inside of our boat. It feels like our home, something that's important to me since it's our full time home. I also love my galley. It fits me and everything is in the right place (bet you don't hear that often!)

Tim: It sails well, and looks good. (Life is too short to live on an ugly boat.)

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

Deb: We've had a couple days of 5+ft waves and not quite 30 knots of wind which isn't much, but it's still more than I would like to have on a routine basis. Most of our bad experiences have been due to a lack of planning.

Tim: We have tried to be very conservative with weather so “bad” is a relative term. Still, as careful as we try to be we have taken a couple of serious poundings to windward with apparent winds of 30+ knots in steep and short period waves. Weather forecasting is often not specific or detailed enough to know exactly what is lurking “out there”. Two similar weather forecasts can lead to two very different experiences depending on the direction of the boat, the sail set, and just the emotional state of the crew at that particular moment. Also, turning around (except for bailing out of a Gulf Stream passage early) is usually not much of an option. Once gone one simply has to take whatever weather comes along. For us it has often been worse than expected.

6. What is your most common sail combination on passage?

Either the 130° genoa by itself on any wind aft of the beam, or the staysail and the main for higher winds forward of the beam.

Tim: Full jib alone. Ours is a head sail boat and the main is often left tied to the boom.

7. What piece of gear seems to break the most often?

Deb: Engine accessories.

Tim: Engine

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

Deb: Being too far away from the kids and grand kids and not having the best communication capabilities.

Tim: Being away from Daughters(3) and Grand Kids (7 soon to be 8).

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

Deb: I was worried about the culture of excess drinking. We drink, but not as much as a lot of people, and never to the point of being drunk. I was worried that we wouldn't fit in if we didn't drink as much as everyone else. We haven't been to any of the big hotspots yet like Georgetown or Marathon which might be different, but so far I've found the cruisers we've met to be careful, attentive, dedicated sailors that limit their intake. In six months I have yet to see a drunk cruiser.

Tim: This is not, ultimately, a more relaxed way to live than on land. It can be some of the time, but one is very exposed to the weather on a boat. Wind and rain barely noticed on land will make for long days on the water, and even longer nights. Everything takes more effort, shopping, laundry, routine maintenance, launching the dink, keeping track of consumables. Cruisers don't often work for anyone else, but keeping this little floating house livable is a full time job.

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

Deb: We did so much research before we left that I honestly can't think of anything.

Tim: Stay off docks and away from mooring balls. Both eat up money like crazy.

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

Deb: I'm sure we made a ton but right now I honestly can't think of any. Selective memory?

Tim: We shipped the boat to Annapolis to be a “cruiser at the Boat Show”. We should have shipped the boat to FL or the Gulf Coast to start. The initial trip down the ICW was miserable.

12. What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

Deb: Being in so many beautiful places that do not in any way resemble a cubicle and meeting so many interesting people.

Tim: Meeting new people who are not Americans is the most interesting. I have had enough excitement after a career in aviation and try to avoid it as much as possible.

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

Deb: The SSB. We bought a used one from a friend but it will never be installed. It's a very large and complex piece of equipment that would require major installation dollars on our boat and everyone I know who owns one has a terrible time with it. We will be buying a small, portable SSB receiver so we can listen to the weather and do weather faxes. With the new HF Weather Fax app on the iPad, and the Delorme InReach for emergency communication, we just don't see any reason to have it on the boat.

Tim: We brought too many sails (6) and have yet to make a sail change. A perfect rig to me would be jib and stay sail on rollers, a main with 3 reef points (We only have two.) and a bullet proof storm stay sail that would go over the inner stay sail.

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

Deb: I've been struggling with seasickness a lot more than I expected. Our boat rolls a lot at anchorages and that pendulum motion just does me in. I never get nauseated, I'm just tired and have a headache and feel dizzy a lot.

Tim: A lack of creature comforts; a comfortable chair, an occasional movie on a big screen, a bit of AC once in a while. Some heat now and then would sure be nice as well.

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

Deb: That you will motor more than you think. We still motor way less than most people because we're rarely in a hurry to get anywhere but we motored almost the whole way down the ICW which I hated.

Tim: Cruisers spend way more time sitting still than we do moving.

16. What gear do you love the most?

Deb: Our iPads hands down. We use the for our primary navigation with both the Garmin Bluechart Mobile and the Navionics apps on both iPads. We also have Sailgrib and Weather Bug and Marine Weather on both of them. We keep one in the cockpit and the other one plugged in charging at all times. We still have the chart plotter on the helm, a GPS down below, and backup GPS navigation on both our phones as well as on both our laptops.

Tim: Navigation on iPads.

17. Tell me your least favorite thing about your boat.

Deb: The cockpit. Our boat has a very narrow stern which is a good thing for large following seas, but it limits the cockpit storage and the size of the seats. We only have one locker in the cockpit which is taken up with cushions, cords, hoses, etc., and there's no room for sails. This means the aft berth is full of sails and I hate clutter so it bugs me. We also do not have any seat long enough to stretch out on which is a problem on overnight passages because we like to stay in the cockpit together, even when off watch.

Tim: The 30 year old WesterBeast motor. The boat is underpowered and the engine hard to service.

18. What type of watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?

Deb: We don't really have a schedule. This works for us, but it wouldn't work for a lot of people. Also, we haven't done any passages more than one night so I'm sure we'd have to adjust for that. At the moment, on one night passages, we both stay in the cockpit. I usually do the first stint from sunset to about 11:00 while Tim naps in the cockpit, and then he does the main overnight part. I pick up in the early morning again. We like to stay in the cockpit together at this point, although that might change in the future.

Tim: The least tired (or least sick) person takes the helm.

19. What is your biggest lesson learned?

Deb: I'm conflicted on this one. I want to say buy the boat for coastal cruising and living aboard at anchor because you will do that more than 99% of the time, but we listened to the experts and bought a bluewater cruiser and the 1% of the time that we end up offshore in bad weather I'll be glad we did. We do compromise on comfort and utility because we're in a bluewater cruiser. When we did our offshore training passages I loved being out there, but I've found I like it less now. I've been thinking a lot about why this is and I think the reason for the difference is that we had many hands to help on those passages and now we only have the two of us. Extra hands to spread the work makes a huge difference. Had I the chance to do it again, I would probably buy a coastal cruiser and not plan on any passages more than one night.

Tim: That this was probably not the best choice of a boat.

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

Deb: I love the almost instant camaraderie between people, like you've known them your whole lives. I haven't really found anything I didn't like.

Tim: I really like that cruisers so easily become friends that you often meet over and over again in unlikely places. I've always been a wanderer and belonging to this tribe of gypsies is like coming home.

On the other hand the marine industry is far worse than anything I imagined but is intimately a part of our “culture”. The industry is (with some exceptions) best regarded as the worst collection of used car hustlers and con men ever assembled. Every cruiser I have ever talked with has been burned by a manufacturer, survey, installer, technician, supplier, or broker. And I mean burned to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars. (I completely understand when cruisers trade the boat for an RV, but I don't like the land that much.)

21. What is the key to make the cruising life enjoyable?

Deb: No question. A sense of humor.

Tim: One has to do whatever it takes to feel safe.

22. How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?

Deb: This is something we did right. Being in aviation, we're over-planners. Since we had no sailing experience prior to deciding on our retirement plans, we took ASA 101, 103, 104, 105, 114 sailing classes and bought a Compac 27 early on to practice on our home lake, Carlyle Lake in Illinois outside of St. Louis. We learned about living on a boat and maintaining a boat the four years we sailed the Compac. When we realize we were ready to begin to look for our cruising boat, we took the summer/fall of 2010 and scheduled 3 training voyages to help us decide what boat to buy. We did a circumnavigation of Long Island in a Pearson 35 leaving Tom's River, NJ and sailing around Block Island, down Long Island Sound, through the city of New York, past Sandy Hook and back to Tom's River in 7 days. We chose that one because we felt a 35 footer was the smallest boat we could live on full time without killing each other. Next we took our ASA 114 catamaran course in Pensacola Beach, FL because we still hadn't resolved the monohull-catamaran debate. We found out that we love catamarans but simply can't afford one. Last we took a training voyage with John Kretschmer on Quetzal, a Kaufman 47, because we thought that would be about the largest boat we could comfortably handle with just the two of us. Those three trips were expensive for us, but they were priceless in the knowledge we gained.

Tim: Charter – charter – then charter some more. It is a bit counterproductive in that charter money is money not available for buying a boat. But there is no substitute for living on different kinds of boats in all kinds of conditions for discovering what you need to know to make decisions that will work for you. Pay very little attention to what the “Old Salts” say. For the most part they have been wrong about everything. Old boats, small boats, simple boats, diminuitive cockpits, basic navigation gear, “blue water” boats (near complete B.S.), pilot berths, narrow hulls, this or that manufacturer, sloop or cutter or ketch, center cockpit, aft cockpit, … don't listen to any of it. They don't sail like you sail, go where you go, or know what you like. Your best hope, after chartering, is to find someone who is out there right now, with a kind of boat you can afford, sailing in the places you might want to sail, who will share what they have learned.

23. In your own experience and your experience meeting cruising couples, can you convince a reluctant partner to go cruising and if so, how?

Deb: I would say categorically no. Our relationship is a little different because the cruising thing was my dream and Tim was willing to go along, but I've met a lot of women who were reluctant spouses and they are pretty unhappy. I guess if you had a spouse that was sensitive to your needs it might work, but my experience is that it's just not worth it if both members of the couple are not eager to succeed. It's just too hard of a change unless you're 100% behind it.

Tim: You can, but both will likely regret it.

24. What do you miss about living on land?

Deb: My kids and grand kids, obviously, so the only thing I miss from land life is fast, reliable internet connections. Cruisers talk about being “off the grid”, but my experience is that I want to be able to share what we're experiencing with our kids and grand kids.

Tim: Full nights of sleep in a quiet bed.

25. What do you think is a common cruising myth?

Deb: That anchorages everywhere are little communities. I've found that unless I get in the dinghy and go to meet other people, we won't meet. For the most part I find people stay to themselves on their own boats unless they're traveling with someone. When we do go introduce ourselves they're always glad that we came, but it's as if everyone is sitting there waiting for someone else to go first.

Tim: That going from land living to cruising will take anything less than all of your effort, most of your money, and rank as one of the hardest transitions you will ever make.

1 comment:

Sailing LunaSea said...

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