We tried the traditional
4-hour watches. After I read some books on sleep
deprivation, though, we went to 7-hour watches at night so we can each get
more uninterrupted sleep. According to the books, people get significantly
fatigued, physically and mentally, when they get less than 6 continuous hours of sleep
(4 cycles of REM sleep) for
periods of a week or more. And tired sailors make bad decisions.
(Also, they're cranky.)
The boat is rigged for short-handed sailing so that either one of us can handle it without having to wake
the other except in an emergency.
By the way, we stand watch only when underway. In port we don't
keep watches at all, unless there's a really bad storm, and/or we are
concerned about the anchor dragging.
5. What do you do on watch?
While underway and on watch, I scan the horizon every 5 or 10 minutes for hazards. Check
equipment. Futz with the sails. Make entries in the logbook.
Plot our position on the chart. Make course changes if necessary. Talk to the auto-pilot. Eat.
Read, or at night listen to books on tape. Watch for dolphins.
Daydream. Enjoy the solitude.
6. What do you do off watch on a passage?
While underway but not on watch, I do absolutely nothing. Alan watches videos and repairs all the stuff that
7. How do you know where you are?
We use a Global Positioning System (GPS) device, which electronically
computes the boat's latitude and longitude to within about three hundred feet.
As back-up to the primary GPS, we have four spare
GPSs -- two handheld and two contained in other equipment. We also use dead reckoning and carry a sextant.
8. Do you ever use your
Nope. About the best I can say is that we still have our
notes from the celestial navigation seminar.
9. What do you eat on board?
In an astounding revelation, I have recently acknowledged that all over the
world, people obtain and eat food. You could not have convinced me of
this, however, during my Sam's Club provisioning frenzy before we left the
States. That first year if we had lost the can opener, we would have
Now, though, we shop at local markets and enjoy whatever we find, whether
it's callaloo, pamplemousse, or packages with cooking instructions
in Dutch. In remote areas, we bake our own bread and shop directly at
local fishing boats. In urban areas, we stock up on staples and canned
goods for several months at a time.
10. Do you fish?
I like to fish, but I'm always afraid I'll catch one. I think they
sense that my heart really isn't in it, and they stay away. We are
going for the all-time record in the category of "Fewest Fish Caught on a
Circumnavigation." Plus, to be fair, we enjoy contributing to local
economies by buying fish from local fishermen.
11. Do you ever see any other sailboats with people doing the same thing as you?
Absolutely. Many, many people from all over the world are
out here voyaging. It is a sub-culture that I had no idea existed before I
Maybe it's because we have the time, or maybe it's because we understand how
profoundly we rely on each other for safety at sea, but nobody is more neighborly than the typical
voyager. The neighborhood itself is constantly changing, of course, and one need
only weigh anchor to find complete solitude elsewhere. But oh the celebration on pulling
into a remote bay and finding a favorite friend one last saw months ago on a
12. Do you meet local residents in the places you visit?
Yes, of course. One of my very, very favorite parts of this
adventure so far is meeting folks and learning about their lives. We have
made some good friends and learned a lot, particularly about perspective. In return, we share what we
know. For example, Alan has done a lot of medical good in the more remote
areas we have visited. Music has been a big part of our interaction, as
13. What are the biggest adventures so far?
Going through the Panama Canal, crossing the Pacific Ocean, and finding spare
parts for the generator in third-world countries.
14. Why do you carry around all that extra equipment to maintain --
refrigeration, watermaker, microwave, washer-dryer?
Sadly, in between sailing and exploring, one must cook, clean and do laundry.
The topic of how many creature comforts to carry
on a cruising boat is one of heated debate amongst voyagers and in the
sailing magazines. My response to minimalists is this: Either
we spend time and energy maintaining and repairing mechanical conveniences, or we spend time
and energy compensating for
For example, without the domestic mechanical conveniences listed above, a
voyager in remote areas must haul fresh water by hand in jerry jugs from village
to dinghy to boat (repeat ad infinitum); do laundry in buckets or by
slapping it against rocks by the proverbial river; cook over a hot stove in the
tropics instead of quickly nuking dinner; deal with skin problems from
salt-water showering; do without perishable food or go to time-consuming lengths
preserve it or to make it daily in small quantities from scratch; and on and on and
I did not go to sea to become a frontier
housewife. Boat life is plenty rugged, adventurous and demanding
all by itself. When our
equipment malfunctions, we quite cheerfully perform the primitive domestic tasks itemized
above. But if I had to do it on a daily basis for the entire five-year
circumnavigation, I would not be a happy cruiser.
15. Does that one-unit washer/dryer work?
Yeah, it does. It washes the clothes and then dries them in the same
space, without a vent to the outside. The manufacturer said that the
smaller version doesn't get the clothes completely dry, but the Combomatic 6000
works like a charm.
16. How do you avoid storms at sea?
You can't, at least not entirely. All you can do is avoid hurricane season; be diligent about
gathering and respecting weather information; pay attention to the sky; and hope
for the best.
17. Have you ever been in a really bad storm underway?
We've been pretty lucky so far, knock wood. We've had some adrenaline-shot gales -- 45-knot winds and 20-foot whitecaps in the
Pacific. One thunderstorm on passage to the Galapagos was pretty
scary. But we have had absolutely nothing in the life-threatening, boat-sinking
category, knock wood again.
18. What was it like to cross the Pacific?
It was amazing. It was one of
the very best experiences of my life. I felt free and self-sufficient and
at one with nature. If I die tomorrow, I will die happy because I did it.
But to put it in perspective, imagine driving in a Winnebago all the way from San Francisco to Miami
-- without ever stopping
or getting out -- bouncing over hilly, bumpy roads -- in the rain -- at about 10 miles per hour.
Landfall was . . . incredibly exciting.
19. What has been your favorite place so far?
All of them. OK, if I had to choose it would be New Zealand -- but that
may just be the recency theory at work. (This page written in Auckland.)
20. What has been the most beautiful sight so far?
The night sky at sea. Not only the constellations, but whole other
galaxies are visible with the naked
eye. It makes me feel an odd combination of wholly insignificant . . . and
21. Living on a boat, what sorts of things do you worry about?
- That our toilet will break
Pretty much in that order.
22. Are there still pirates out there?
We haven't seen any, knock wood, but we know
of several confirmed attacks on our route -- Venezuela, Indonesia, and the
entrance to the Red Sea. We take normal safety precautions and in areas of known
danger try to travel in company with other boats.
All things considered, we're still probably a whole lot safer out here than
we ever were on Central Expressway in Dallas.
NOTE ADDED in late 2003: Although since writing
the above answer we have certainly seen some
pirates, I still maintain that driving in traffic is a bigger threat!
23. Have you seen any sharks?
Yep. Even more than in my old law practice. :-)
24. Do you ever get lonely?
No. We miss our family and land-friends, but we stay in touch by e-mail.
Plus, we have made many close friends among the cruising
community. And after so many years of long working hours, Alan and I love having
so much time alone together. In a living space the size of our former walk-in closet, loneliness is
25. Being together constantly in such a small space, how do you
and your husband avoid
killing each other?
We do really well together. In fact, most of the married cruising couples I
know are particularly close. What I don't
know is whether cruising brings a couple closer together, or whether a couple
needs to start out extraordinarily close to survive the experience.
26. What in the world do you DO? With all your
time, that is?
Apart from regular chores (which take a lot longer to
accomplish when you live on a boat in mostly remote areas) and apart from trying
to maintain the boat in like-new condition, I spend my time doing the things I
always said I wished I had time to do -- like read a lot, write a lot, spend
time with Alan, learn how to do stuff, see the world, talk to people with lives
wildly different to my own, and get enough sleep. Believe me, there's rarely any time
left over; and when there is, I sit around and do nothing at all.
27. Why on earth are you doing this?
Because it's my dream. Because I love it. Because life can be
so very short. Had I
known that my mid-life crisis would be this much fun, I would have had it