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Recent Questions


Pending Qs



  Recently Asked Questions

Note: Please accept my apologies for the long delay in answering some of these questions.   My work ethic isn't what it used to be.  :-) 

This page lists all questions in reverse chronological order, the most recent (2003) at the top.

Click here for a list of the questions I haven't gotten to yet.

As always, information on this page is accurate and appropriate to the best of our knowledge and experience, but do not use any information herein as your sole source of marine navigation or safety.

Q:  My partner and myself are considering blue water cruising in a 45-footer.  I have scoured cruising websites, such as yours and others, and have found that most sailors indicate they get into ports easier if they have the USCG "certificate of competence."  I noted you mentioned you both earned your USCG Captains' licenses ... Is that the same thing as the Certificate of Competence?  Thanks and great sailing to you both!

A:  I have never seen a piece of paper called a "certificate of competence," and I don't know what that is.  My husband and I both hold a license for "Operator of Uninspected Vessel" -- which is a charter captain's or "6-pack" license for a craft under 50 tons.  I'm sure it would serve as a certificate of competence, but I have never heard it referred to as such.  Sorry I can't help, except to say that in the entire circumnavigation we were never asked by authorities to document our competence in any way!

Q:  My wife & I retired in May of 03 and we have been following your adventures with lust. We live in Rockwall, Tx, & pass thru Temple when we go to our boat in Pt. Aransas. We have a Downeast 38 cutter and are readying her for off shore cruising...who knows where the winds will take us. My only question is about firearms. I'm a retired police officer and my wife is a paramedic, so we both have seen what guns can and can't do. My concern is up close/on board safety and for that I have no problem using a flare gun. Have you had any problems with them on board/declaring them, or having them confiscated? What did you use for personal defense?  Thanks Richard & Canda, S/V Seaduction

A:  Hello to all Rockwallians!  The only place where we had a problem with flare guns was in Trinidad & Tobago, in the Caribbean.  There the clearance forms required us (in very fine print, I might add) to declare "all firearms, including . . . flare guns."  Nowhere else did we see flare guns classified as declarable firearms.  We never had to surrender them anywhere, and always relied on them as last-ditch on-board personal defense, along with the canisters of pepper spray we kept at hand throughout the boat.

Here is the bottom line.  In the almost six years we lived afloat, our home was never violated.  We never lost a single item to theft, aboard or ashore.  And apart from thwarted piracy in areas where everyone expects it, and apart from a handful of insignificant incidents of hostility, we were never physically threatened in any way by humans.  I wish I could feel as safe living on land.  :-)

Still, as with all things on a voyage, planning and preparation are the keys to good fortune.  So here are my thoughts on personal security, for whatever they're worth.  Nobody wants to spend time and energy being paranoid.  It was our policy to minimize the risk of attack as much as possible with reasonable effort, and then to go about our business without worrying about it.

Essentially, there were three situations for which we had a defense plan: 

bullet(1) at sea, keeping pirates at a distance and preventing them from boarding in large numbers; 
bullet(2) at anchor or dock, defending against individual sneak-boarders; and 
bullet(3) on land in high-crime urban or resort areas, especially for a female ashore alone.  

(1)  Against piracy on the high seas, the goal is not perfect defense, which is impossible against a determined attack.  The goal is to be the least attractive target in the area.  We found the best defense was mainly to pay attention.  After observing thousands of local boats around the world, we can say unequivocally that a local "fishing boat" with more than 2 or 3 guys on it is not engaged in fishing.  It is either a "ferry," in which case it will probably not deviate from course; or it is up to no good.  Upon sighting such a boat -- and certainly if it begins a pursuit -- it is advisable to maintain top speed, even if it means motorsailing and/or changing course, to keep it at a distance.  Another effective measure is to plan to sail in company in the few areas of the world known to be the absolute riskiest (Indonesia, Malacca Straits, Gulf of Aden, mainland Venezuela).  Also, we carried a shotgun and a rifle that had the capacity to warn pirates off before they got close enough to board.  Before entering high-risk areas, we spent a few minutes practicing with both guns, and luckily those were the only times they had to be fired.  (See a question somewhere below for a detailed answer regarding carrying firearms.)  

(2) The best defense against a sneak-boarder is simple:  close and lock all hatches and companionways whenever you are asleep and whenever you leave the boat.  Some of the worst attacks we know of took place during the day when lock-averse cruisers were napping or when they returned to the boat and surprised a thief belowdecks.  On Heartsong III, we had enough porthole cross-ventilation that we did not need to leave human-size hatches open all the time.  If you need to leave hatches open while you sleep, I recommend looking into lockable metal gratings (which unlock from below).  The risk of not being able to unlock them quickly in the event of a fire (which if you don't smoke is unlikely in any event) is in my opinion insignificant in comparison to the almost certainty that every so often a thief or marauder will check your defenses.  Simply locking up will eliminate the vast majority of risk of an intruder.  And as you correctly point out, having a flare gun (and/or pepper spray) at hand in extremis is a good back-up plan.  For reasons I discuss at length in a question below, having a handgun for close-quarters protection is, in my view, a very bad idea on a cruising boat, even if you like them and would have one at home as a matter of course.

(3) As for protection ashore, we practiced normal urban caution, such as paying attention to our surroundings, never flashing our money, not wearing nice jewelry, and not discussing where our boat was located (since it was clearly unoccupied if we were ashore!).  And I carried a small canister of pepper spray in my bag (which though strictly illegal in most places, I would do again without qualm).  

And with these low-effort precautionary measures in place, we felt free not to worry about being attacked and to enjoy our interaction with the local population -- the vast majority of which would constitute zero risk of theft or violence.  Fair winds.

Q:  I love the videos on your site, particularly the mid-Atlantic and the Tonga to NZ. I'm curious, now that you've completed your voyage, are you glad it's over, or do you look back wistfully? I'm wistful watching the videos, and I wasn't even there!  Thanks for being so forthcoming with your personal story. I'm sure many people are inspired, as I am.

A:  Thanks for the kind words.  Yep, when we drove away from the Florida dock where Heartsong III was bobbing with a "for sale" sign on her, I cried my silly eyes out.  And even now a week later, I get teary-eyed -- especially when I revisit special moments (like mid-ocean sunsets).  But Alan and I knew this mid-life adventure break would end at some point, so I try to be philosophical about it and to appreciate the reality that I was incredibly lucky to get to fulfill my life's dream.  Best of luck to you in pursuing yours. 

Q:  Your opinion for a hard or soft dodger for a 35 foot sloop that's about to leave for the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

A:  Hard.  If you are crossing a major ocean, it is my opinion you need sturdy protection from the elements, and tucking up under a hard dodger in a serious wind- and rain-storm is very cozy.  But whichever way you go, actually the most important part is having a well-designed structure that holds the dodger firmly in place.  I do not advocate a plexiglass "windshield."  If it breaks you have huge problems.  The heavy clear vinyl zip-on has gone around the world for us without yellowing or cracking.

Q:  I will be in a position in a couple of years to take 2 to 3 years from my company and cruise. My wife and I have 2 young children and think that this would be a grand experience for all. My question is....I've been sailing since the mid 80's chartering boats and then buying a small 26' Catalina Capri. No real offshore experience. I’ve been looking into getting on a delivery service that will take people like me on a passage to gain offshore experience. Is this a good way to educate oneself and if so is there any delivery services that you know of that you could recommend? Also, any opinion on a Pacific Seacraft as a good blue water boat? Thank you for you input!!

A:  Re serving as crew on a delivery:  All offshore experience is not created equal.  Some issues to consider are these: (1) Is the delivery captain experienced and competent?  (2) Do you know him or her well enough to know whether he or she will exercise good judgment in an emergency?  (3) Is the boat to be delivered a seaworthy boat?  (4) Do you know enough to tell if it's not?  (5) How long is the trip, and are there emergency stops available en route?  Your trip could be wonderful and educational, or it could be a complete nightmare.  

All things considered, I would tend more towards gaining experience by taking short hops offshore in a seaworthy boat with which I was very familiar -- and possibly by hiring a delivery captain to sail with me as crew for a day here or there.  For example, I might go out and test myself and my equipment by daysailing in a variety of weather conditions.  Then, after careful preparation, I might do an easy overnighter down the coast or inter-island, in settled weather.  And so on, working up to a passage.  If you know enough about navigation and the rules of the road to pass the USCG "6 pack" (OUPV/charter captain) exam and if you have bareboat chartered in the Caribbean or Med, you'll do at least as well as most of us did our first time out.

If you do choose to crew on a delivery, however, do the same safety prep on the delivery boat that you would do on your own.  And at the very least, take your own PFD and pack a waterproof bag with your own VHF radio, flares, and portable GPS.

As to an opinion on Pacific Seacraft, all I know is that it is a fine, reputable company.  Good luck to you.

Q:  Congratulations. You're an inspiration to us all.

A.  Thanks mate.

Q:  We are planning a circumnavigation in a couple of years and would like your advice. We are considering a 77 foot cutter rig with a 11.5 draft.  Is that draft too great for comfortable spots to anchor?

A:  Yep.  

We anchor in 10-17 ft much of the time.  Even with minimal tides, you would have a problem.  Many marina entry channels would be too shallow for comfort as well.  A draft of 7-8 feet would allow you to anchor in the vast majority of the world's prettiest places.  But 11.5 ft . .  ..  wow.  You would be doing a whole lot of anchoring way out from shore and dinghying way in, and you would therefore often be in a less well-protected spot.  I'm quite sure it can be done, as we do see huge boats out here that must have such deep drafts, but anticipate significant inconvenience.  [There's another question on draft below.]

Q: Hi, like your site, but after having asked around amongst my (boatie) friends, and they don't know either:  What is "gunkholing"?   I see it often in American magazines, but it is not used here in Australia.

A:  I've never heard an actual definition, so I'm basically making this one up:  Gunkholing is sailing in fine weather a very short distance among multiple lovely anchorages in a relatively small geographic area.  Liberal ingestion of tasty alcoholic beverages and good food is implied.  Much enjoyment of sun, sea, and sand is similarly assumed, and boat work is strictly forbidden.  :-)

Q:  We are currently considering a 42ft trimaran for our voyage as we have a small dog and the extra deck area is an advantage for us.  Do you know of any people who are currently sailing a tri and if they have any regrets or problems making passage in rough seas.  I do appreciate the costs may be more for marinas and repairs but we will try to avoid using marinas where possible.  Once again thank you for your informative site.

A:  I hesitate to tell you this, but the only trimaran cruising boat of our acquaintance sank in the South Pacific in late 1999 in foul weather and rough seas.  The owner believed that it must have developed a stress-related leak near the rudder post.  Also, I seem to remember that one of the three pontoons began breaking up when steering became a problem.  The owner and crew were rescued, and we talked to them in New Zealand.  I did not ask them specifically whether they attributed the problem to the trimaran design generally or to the construction of that particular multi-hull or perhaps just to bad luck.   They were still pretty shell-shocked, and one didn't like to press them too much.  There are plenty of trimaran ocean racers, though, so presumably the basic design must be ocean-friendly -- wouldn't you think?  On the other hand, you might want to do a bit of additional safety research before you make a final decision.

If I can find that trimaran owner's email address, I will send him yours in case he has anything to add to my account of his tragedy.  His was one of 11 yachts that we know of that sank in the Pacific the season we crossed.  The rest, to my knowledge, were mono-hulls.

 We know many double-hulls (catamarans) that have successfully crossed oceans in rough conditions.  Just out of curiosity -- have you looked into one at all?  Their deck space is usually pretty impressive.

Q:  Circumnavigation: Why so quick to return?  Why not winter in England and spend next summer in the Baltic, then the exciting crossing? 

A:  That sounds glorious, and we know many people who are doing just that.  In our case, however, my husband is eager to get back to work.  (Personally I think he's been out in the sun too long.)  In any event, we gave ourselves this adventure break with the knowledge that it would have to end someday.  And someday is coming up way too fast for me.

Q:  Do you know where I could buy paper fishing charts for the north and south coast of the country of Panama?  Thank you.

A:  You can get paper navigation charts from Bluewater Books and Charts.  They always show depth contours, underwater rocks, and other features of interest to fishermen, but I don't know of any nautical charts just for fishing.

Q:  I forgot to ask a question in my last message. Although it doesn't appear that you have any pets aboard, what knowledge do you have of them?  Both my wife and myself are quite fond of Abyssinian cats and would consider taking them along if they weren't going to cause too many problems...  I imagine that, as with firearms, the rules and regulations differ from country to country.  Aside of that, what do you know of general practicalities associated with keeping pets aboard?

A:  We know many cruisers with pets, usually cats, so I know that it can be done.  There was an excellent article about cruising with pets in Blue Water Sailing magazine, written by Jeff on Gryphon sometime in 2001 or early 2002.  

Our friends tell us that a younger cat or kitten adapts better to boat life, and that it's crucial to document all vaccinations and to get a certificate of health from a vet before one leaves home.  Several countries have strict quarantine rules for pets.  I have been told that the UK still requires a pet arriving by yacht to go into quarantine in a government facility for a full six months.  Australia and New Zealand have quarantine rules, as well, though I don't know whether they are as strict as the UK.  You might see if you can locate that magazine article as a place to start your research.

Q:  I'm working up a design for a cruising boat and hope to be out there in two years to complete my circumnavigation and take as much time as I can.  I've already done most of the Med, an Atlantic crossing and the Caribbean, but there is a lot left.  Thanks to you, I'll also do a web site.  A question though.  What guides do you recommend for Asia?

A:  We used the following books for the areas between Australia and the Red Sea:

bulletIndian Ocean Cruising Guide, by Rod Heikell (Imray) -- excellent overview of all areas with a lot of detail, but we still found it useful to supplement this book with the guides devoted to specific areas
bulletCruising Guide to Southeast Asia, Vol. II, by Davies & Morgan -- still considered the best guide for Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore & the Malacca Strait, but we did find more mistakes than we like to see
bulletSail Thailand, by Everingham, Dowden & O'Leary -- absolutely crucial guide for Thailand, with many corrections to nautical charts and a wealth of detail on the anchorages.

Q:  This is Larry in Hervey Bay, Australia. My wife and I are considering buying a yacht, possibly in Florida. Can you please give me a rough idea of the red tape and approximate costs of coming through the Panama canal?   We are both 72 but that won't stop us!

A:  Good on ya, mates.  The Canal cost question is answered as best I can answer it in the question below.  As for the red tape, the Yacht Club at Cristobal (east side) or Balboa (west side) can point you in the right direction to get started.  You can either hire an agent or make a handful of office visits yourself.  We did the latter, and it was no big deal.  All it took was some patience and the better part of a day.  The officials spoke some English and helped us with the paperwork (but I would recommend your having a Spanish dictionary handy just in case).  They then gave us a phone number to call daily to check when we would be scheduled for transit.  Although we were bumped from the list a couple of times (presumably by someone who had hired an agent!), we went through the canal about 10 days after we arrived at the anchorage.  For a lot more info, see the magazine article I wrote just after we went through.

One additional note: In Cristobal on the eastern side of the Canal, crime is rampant in the city areas where you will have to go to arrange transit.  The yacht club will advise you to always take a taxi into town, as opposed to walking, and never to walk around alone, even for short distances.  We followed their advice and had no problems, but that situation -- if it hasn't improved since 1999 when we were there -- might influence your decision whether to hire an agent (which you can do by telephone from the Yacht Club).

Q:  My wife Paula and I are currently in Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays [Australia], building our 40' catamaran. We are working full time building her and are very much looking forward to cruising. It was interesting finding your site, as your circumnavigation passage in the Pacific is similar to that we wish to undertake, only in reverse. Our question, finally, is regarding your Panama Canal transit, could you please tell us how much it costs to pass through the Panama Canal, as we have been unable to find a costing schedule on the web.

A:  I can tell you what it cost us in April 1999 for a 54-foot monohull sailing yacht (in American dollars):

bullet$937.50 canal fee, including a refundable deposit of $187.50.  The deposit was refunded about a month after we transited, by check mailed to our land address.  So the net cost was $750.
bullet$71 cruising permit, including copies and the government-tax stamps you have to buy and attach
bullet$20 customs and immigration "handling" fee (for which we were not able to obtain a receipt)

So the net official cost to transit the Panama Canal for us came to $841.  We also spent about $150 for the extra line we needed, plus a few dollars for trash bags and duct tape to wrap the tires (free!) we used as fenders.

By the way, when you say you're planning a similar Pacific passage except in reverse, I hope you don't mean you're heading east from Australia to Panama via French Polynesia.  I don't mean to question your sanity, but you do know -- right? -- that you would be sailing 3,000 miles straight into the teeth of the tradewinds and a large Pacific swell all the way from the Marquesas to the Galapagos.  The excellent resource books Ocean Passages for the World and World Cruising Routes list some easier options for an eastward passage to the Americas than reversing the tradewind route we took westward.  You have probably done the research and know you either have to go much further north or else much further south than the route we took, but just in case, I would feel bad if I didn't bring the issue to your attention.

Q:  I have just begun my adventures in sailing, with my first solo captain experience in the BVI on a 505.  I'm hooked!  Planning the next trip to St Maarten and am working my way to one day circumnavigating the globe, at least dreaming about it.  I have just some quick questions about your boat.  1.  Do you ever use your forward looking sonar? or could you do without it!  2.   Do you feel left out of any anchorages due to your draft and would you consider a retractable centerboard?  3.  Money aside, for two adults, two children under 7 year of age and possibly a nanny/teacher/crew member is the Hylas 54 too small and have you seen the plans for the Hylas 66?

A:  Question 1: If you buy a forward-looking sonar, spend the money to get a really good one or in my opinion there's no point.  We bought the bottom-of-the-line model..  Although we "use" it (i.e., we turn it on from time to time), it is probably the least helpful electronic item on the boat.  It seems to give a good signal and picture, but we never have any idea what it is that we're looking at.  Land or water?  School of fish or half-submerged container?  Reef or sea turbulence?  It's impossible to tell.  I have seen the expensive color models, and they are much easier to read.  Still, in my view, if budget is an issue, the money would be better spent elsewhere -- for example, for an integrated radar/chartplotter or a spare autopilot.

Question 2:  Draft is always a compromise.  With our 7.5ft (2.3m) draft, there are some anchorages we have had to skip, particularly in the Bahamas and a few in the Med.  The vast majority of the world's prettiest spots, however, are deep enough for us; and that little bit of extra draft pays off at sea.  During the design phase of the Hylas 54, we put the idea of a retractable centerboard on the table.  Hylas was not interested, however, and we ended up negotiating the centerboard away for something we wanted more.  And in hindsight I'm glad.  We know two boats with retractable centerboards, and both have malfunctioned in a big way.  Moreover, you just can't put enough weight at the bottom of the board to do any good.  The retractable would seem intuitively to give you the best of both worlds, but people who have it tell us that instead they have the best of neither world, plus an unreliable system.  (I'd love to hear from someone with a centerboard who likes it, to get the other side of the debate.)  If you plan to do tropical coastal sailing, a shoal-draft boat is ideal.  If you plan to cross oceans, however, you need a decent draft whether or not it means you may miss an anchorage or two in the tropics.  A draft of 7-8 feet will not hinder you in any major way in the vast majority -- I'm going to make up a figure and say 90% -- of places.

Question 3: For the crew you describe, whether the Hylas 54 is big enough would have to depend on your comfort and privacy requirements.  We know large families that travel in much smaller boats than ours, but for us the 54 is just right for 2 people with occasional guests from home.  The 54 does have a lot of interior volume, thanks to the wide beam brought well aft.  I haven't seen the 66 plans.  Sorry I can't help, but it's an "everybody's different" kind of question.  You might think about chartering a Hylas 54 in St. Thomas and judge for yourself.  And keep in mind that the Hylas like many other production boats has a semi-custom interior, so you can optimize your space.

Q:  How much money do you budget while out cruising? Say monthly.  I certainly understand if you wouldn't want to answer. But it seems you live a little better than most of the cruisers I've read about.   Thanks for the stories...

A:  We budget exactly the same amount per month cruising as we did when we lived on land.  Granted we spend money on totally different things, but oddly enough the overall amount turns out to be about the same.

As for our spending a little more than average, you are probably correct.  Our philosophy is that we'd rather cruise comfortably for six years than frugally for eight or ten.  But the opposite view is equally valid, and we know many people who have extended their cruising by appropriate, enviable, disciplined budget-watching.

Basically, there are as many different workable budgets as there are cruisers.  For a breakdown of basic categories of cruising expenditures for planning purposes, scroll down to a question near the end of this page.

Q:  I am a 19 years old student from Italy and I would like to have this kind of adventure like you.  I wish I could do it with my girlfriend I live with.  I would be pleased if you answer a simple question.  How much money do I need?  I mean how much does cost a sailing boat and how much money do I need for all the other stuff?  I am waiting for your reply.

A:  As I talked about in the previous question, I think you would probably spend per month about what you spend now.  So to know how much you need to save, keep track of what you spend now and multiply it by how long you want to stay out.

As for cost of the actual boat, you can pay anything from about US$10,000 for an older, small but generally seaworthy boat to over a million dollars for a big luxury cruiser like a Swan or an Oyster.  Since you're a student, I assume you would start small.  Next time you are near a marina dock on the Italian coast, stop in and look around.  Several boats will be for sale, and there will be ads posted on the bulletin board for others, and you can get a general idea of what's available.  Used equipment will be available, too, and there will be ads for swap meets.

Here's some final advice, though.  When you feel like you have enough money to go, work and save for another year or two.  We occasionally see folks on a shoestring budget who have a financial emergency that ends the trip.  If you have an emergency fund set aside before you go, you will sail with a lot less stress.

Q:  I want to spend several years cruising after retirement.  However, I will not be able to devote the time until I am 62 years old.  Is the lifestyle too demanding for someone of that age?  My wife and I stay in good shape and have no health problems.  Thanks. 

A:  No worries, mate.  Yes, the lifestyle can be physically demanding at times, but if you're in decent shape you'll be fine.  Although most voyagers of our acquaintance are between 45 and 60 years old,  there are many voyagers in their 70s and some in their 80s.  Rather than youth and strength, the qualities required of a successful circumnavigator are more in the nature of good judgment and endurance.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Having said that, though, the better shape you stay in, the safer and easier your voyage will be.  And of course, as with cruisers of any age, it's always good to consult a physician for all the check-ups before you leave.  The best possible thing to do is establish a personal relationship with a good family doctor who knows your circumstances and will make himself or herself available for email inquiries should you develop minor problems along the way.

Another way to prepare is to outfit your boat with electric or hydraulic gear -- winches, windlass, etc.  It's my belief that a yacht should be outfitted such that the physically weakest crew member can bring her into a safe port singlehandedly in an emergency. 

Q:  Gonna be cruising ourselves, someday.  While traveling, do you always have communication with other cruisers, or are there times when you are 'out there' all alone with the ocean? 

A:  You can choose your level of isolation, from none to total.  There are always cruisers available to "buddy boat," that is, to travel together -- sometimes within sight -- and to keep constant communication via VHF radio.  Alternatively, you can choose never to communicate with anybody at all.  

Or you can choose to participate in SSB/HF radio "nets" (an intermediate position that most cruisers, including us, usually take).  A net can be formal, in which you check in with your position and weather conditions every day at the same time.  In a formal net, failure to check in would lead to people making an effort to look for you; and ultimately, authorities would be notified if you cannot be located.  Formal nets are run most often for long ocean passages.  

In an informal  net, you can check in as often as you choose with no repercussions.  As in a formal net, you can talk to your friends and acquaintances to find out where and how they are; and you can obtain info like where the nearest diesel mechanic is, etc.  For example, the informal Med Net that we listen to now (but rarely actually "check into") on 8122 at 0730 Croatia local time gives excellent weather for the various regions and then allows check-ins and eventually opens the frequency up to boat-to-boat traffic.  On an informal net, failure to check in will not lead directly to anyone looking for you.  However, an informal net is an excellent way for a friend who has not heard from you in a while to check up on you.  If there is concern over your whereabouts, a cruiser can issue a "health and welfare" request that asks other cruisers actively to try to find you.  And it is amazing what a small world it really is.

You can always find out about nets just by asking other cruisers in an anchorage.  Somebody will know, or will know how to find out.

For me, however, one of the best parts of voyaging is the adventure of being alone with the ocean.  So we almost never join a formal net, though we take care to know about them in case of an emergency.  And we often listen in to the informal nets because it's fun.

Q:  My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a Hylas 54 that is equipped similarly to Heartsong III, and are planning to do some cruising with our 4 year-old son.  I have read your review of the Hylas 54, and much of the information on your very helpful site.  Great stuff!   We are wondering how you find the Hylas 54 for shorthanded cruising, and are there any major considerations that we should make before completing a decision on this boat?

Also, would you recommend Concord Electronics, Summerfields boatyard and the canvas shop that you used (can't remember the name offhand)?

A:  First off, thanks for the kind words.  Regarding specific vendor recommendations, please have a look at Vendors We Like for the Florida area.

Regarding the Hylas 54, it is no secret that we think it is an ideal bluewater cruiser, and we have been very comfortable and happy for the past five years.  As for any specific considerations you might find helpful, I have pretty much said everything I know either here on this website or in Blue Water Sailing magazine in the April 2003 issue ("Hylas 54 After 20,000 Miles").  To set the boat up for short-handed sailing, we requested some basic features, some or all of which are common to many shorthanded cruising yachts:

bulletIn-mast furling (electric with manual override)
bullet Roller-furling jib (manual)
bulletOversized electric main winches for jib sheets
bulletAll lines run to cockpit (so we do not have to go out on deck to reef main or jib)
bulletAutopilot with remote
bulletOversized electric windlass with cockpit remote

Then we added a couple of small pieces of equipment:

bullet"Watch Commander" watch-keeping and singlehanding alarm system
bulletElectric winch handle (to use with manual jib furler or other manual winches on board when I'm too fatigued to crank)

Note:  Most people, including us, recommend that you never have an electric jib furling mechanism.  The reason is that if the line or the furler is fouled, you can ruin it in about two seconds by forcing it mechanically.  However, we have found that having the electric winch handle is nice because it cranks at about the speed of a strong 25-year-old crew member, but one can still "feel" unusual resistance on the line.

With these options, either my husband or I can sail the boat singlehandedly for extended periods of time if need be.  Doublehanded sailing is so easy we don't even think in terms of being shorthanded.  Having a center cockpit and plenty of space for electronics and power certainly makes it easier, but any seaworthy yacht can be set up to be an efficient and safe shorthanded cruiser.

I think I may have mentioned this before, but for us the hardest thing about short-handed sailing is docking a big boat like the Hylas 54 when there's some wind blowing.  Even if you do not plan to stay in marinas at all, you must still dock on a regular basis for fuel or at a mandatory customs berth.  When the wind catches the bow in tight quarters one is completely helpless and cannot effectively control the boat's movement.  That's when about 5 extra crew members would be nice, because in a doublehanded situation one person needs to stay behind the wheel -- and so the other person must be everywhere else at once trying to fend off on both sides, jumping onto the dock, tying up, and whatever else needs to be done to prevent disaster.  Control of the bow can be made much easier with a bow-thruster.  We considered one, but rejected it as just one more hole in the hull.  However, in light of several close calls with jagged concrete docks over the years, I think it's still an open question whether the value of the thruster would outweigh its negative aspects.  It's something to consider anyway.  In all cases, though, it helps the shorthanded docking situation to have PLENTY (at least 6) of OVERSIZED fenders, as well as long (at least 50 ft), super-light-weight but really strong dock lines.  It also helps to practice throwing lines (there's an art to it) and practice making the "death leap" on to the dock when there's nobody to throw them to.

Hope any of this was helpful.  Best of luck with your cruising.  Keep in touch!

Q:  Hi.  My wonderful wife and I spent our honeymoon in Bequia and were completely fascinated by the sailing boats and catamarans that anchored in Admiralty Bay.  The people were great and we fell in love with the idea of sailing around the Caribbean and anchoring in any of the islands for a few nights and moving on.  We are not ready to do what you are doing but would like to start that way for summer vacations.  Could you please give us your opinion regarding what would be an appropriate boat to do that (size, brand, etc.) and where should we look to research more.  Thanks and be safe.

A:  Congrats on your happy marriage!  More good news is that most boats on the market would be great for island-hopping the Caribbean.  A lot would depend on your budget.  For a vacationing couple, a seaworthy mid-30-footer would probably be just about right -- but I hesitate to recommend actual brands or models, as there are so very, very many good ones available.  What I would really recommend is that you charter several times -- with a captain at first and then bareboat -- to get a feel for the type of boat you might enjoy and need.

Here are my picks for best chartering spots in the Caribbean:  

bulletVirgin Islands (CYC in St. Thomas or Moorings in Roadtown)
bulletGrenadines (Moorings in Grenada)

Here are my picks for best chartering spots in the Mediterranean

bulletTurkey (Sunsail in Marmaris or Bodrum)
bulletGreece (many independent boats; look in sailing mags for an agent)

As for further info, go no further than your local newsstand.  Magazines such as Blue Water Sailing, Cruising World, and Sail are chock full of relevant advice and ideas.

Q:  We have thought of carrying firearms onboard our sailboat for self-defensive purpose. Do you have problems when checking in? What do you think is an ideal rifle and handgun for cruisers?  I have always considered having a firearm is like having an insurance policy. Keep trucking and have fun!

A:  Checking in to a country when you have firearms on board involves significantly more trouble and expense than if you carry no firearms.  First, most countries will want to "store" them and your ammunition for "safekeeping" while you are in the country.  When you get the firearms back, you may notice that a fair amount of your ammunition is gone, and that the guns have been fired.  That particular issue can be prevented by installing a trigger-lock and refusing to surrender the key.  There is no protection, however, against the firearms and/or ammunition becoming mysteriously "lost" while in official custody.  Such losses have happened to two cruisers with whom we are personally acquainted.

Second, on departure you must clear out of the exact same port at which you originally cleared in to retrieve the guns; or in larger countries, you can pay a small fortune to have them shipped to your exit port (after giving several weeks notice, which still does not guarantee timely delivery).  These things have to be factored into route planning and budget.

Third, some countries -- notably Singapore -- levy a non-refundable customs fee for mandatory gun storage that is roughly equal to the value of the gun itself.

Fourth, if you declare a handgun, it will always be confiscated for the duration of your stay; and it is even less likely to be returned unfired, if it is returned at all.  Moreover, they are small enough to be concealed on a person's body, which makes them generally more likely to go missing from your boat.  As a lawyer, I will just mention that if a crime is committed with your handgun in a foreign country, you could certainly clear the situation up -- if you have declared it and are meticulous about your paperwork -- but you might suffer some stress and loss of time and money in the process.

Fifth, if you carry guns and decide not to declare them, you are risking a heavy fine, jail time, and/or confiscation of your boat.  In Malaysia, gun-running is punishable by the death penalty.  In Tobago, our anchorage was searched and one poor French cruiser was carted off and gone for three days until he could raise the US$2,000 fine that was levied for failure to declare his rifle.

Sixth, unless you buy a "marinized" gun, it will rust unless you take very good care of it.

Seventh, the situations in which you would want firearm protection are virtually nil.  Almost every encounter you will have with local boats and citizenry will be at worst harmless and at best unmissably rewarding.  

Having said all that, though, we carried a rifle and a marinized shotgun all the way from Florida to Egypt, checking them in properly at each country and keeping good records.  It was a major hassle, but when we were approached by pirates on the high seas near Java and in the Gulf of Aden, we were happy we had them (even though we did not have to fire).  It is still the case that for the vast majority of the time in the vast majority of the world, cruisers can depend on nobody for protection but themselves and any other cruisers who happen to be nearby.  Although the chance of attack is tiny, the chance of rescue is even smaller. 

A good addition or alternative to guns is pepper spray or Mace.  Buy many canisters in the USA (assuming it's still legal there), because it is illegal and unavailable almost everywhere else we have been.  However, there has been no requirement in any of the countries we have visited to declare or surrender it.  It is an excellent method of self-defense on a boat at anchor.  But always fire aft -- downwind.  :-)

If you decide to carry guns, I humbly submit some food for thought:

  1. Think long and hard before you put a handgun on board.  They are too easily stolen off the boat or by an official and can land you in serious jail-time type of trouble if found undeclared.  Most countries treat handguns far more stringently than rifles or shotguns.  Moreover, handguns are virtually useless in pirate situations against a half dozen guys with Kalishnakovs.  The downside outweighs the upside by a landslide.
  2. Instead, consider buying a "marinized" shotgun and/or rifle.  We carried a Mossberg Mariner 590 shotgun and a Remington 30-06 (non-marinized) rifle.  We were happy with both.  With either or both, you could probably keep pirates far enough away that their Kalishnakovs (typical armament), which are notoriously inaccurate, could not be fired to any significant effect.  (Still -- practice taking cover!!)
  3. Consider postponing your gun purchase until the first-world country just before a danger area.  For example, if you are circumnavigating from the USA west coast, wait until New Zealand to buy.  Then you'll have your guns for the high-danger areas of Southeast Asia and/or the Gulf of Aden but won't have to hassle with them while island-hopping across the Pacific.  You will need to investigate in advance which countries allow firearm purchases, but this exercise will take a lot less time than carting your guns back and forth every time you make landfall throughout the safer areas.
  4. KEEP EXCELLENT RECORDS.  Make many copies of a Firearms List, which details your guns, type, serial numbers, ammunition type and amount.  Make spaces for your boat stamp, your signature, the date, port, time of gun surrender or sealing on board, the customs official's signature, any fee that will change hands, and anything else official-looking you can think of.  Make the customs guy sign off on 2 copies and keep one for yourself.  Read and fill out their own paperwork carefully, and make sure you have a first-class paper trail.  For example, in the fine print of some customs entry forms, flare guns are listed as a declarable firearm.  The bottom line is that you need to be able to document (a) your compliance with local law, and (b) your lack of access to your gun in the event that a shooting crime is committed nearby.
  5. Install a lock on the gun's trigger or on a hard outer case, or on both, and keep the key(s) even if the gun itself must be surrendered to authorities.  Alternatively, remove the entire magazine and keep it hidden on the boat.
  6. Investigate ammunition possibilities.  For a rifle, you will want to carry some bullets that will penetrate a hull at maximum distance.  For the shotgun, you can buy "mortar" shells that explode in mid-air with a loud bang and flash.  These shells, developed for farmers to scare birds, are excellent for doing what you probably will want to do -- scare pirates away before they get close enough to board.
  7. Practice firing.  Take your guns to a range and fire them many times until you are comfortable with them
  8. RUN DRILLS on your boat while underway.  Practice evading and firing warning shots under all points of sail, and in daytime and nighttime.  Take enough ammunition that you can run some drills with live fire.  But be careful not  to do what a friend of ours did.  While drilling, he fired aft from the cockpit and severed his backstay!  By the way, don't bother to drill in really bad weather.  Pirates typically don't come out in a blow.
  9. Think it through.  Talk possible scenarios through with your crew and with other cruisers.  Practice and plan for all that you can think of.  Decide whether you think you could kill somebody.  Decide beforehand whether you will fire to protect property, or only if your personal safety is at risk.  For pirate situations, decide whether you will fire only to prevent them from boarding, or whether you will continue to fire once they are on your vessel and/or whether you will continue to fire if they appear to be leaving.  Debate the line between self-defense and vigilante-ism, and decide where it lies for you.  Think through what actions might indicate whether men in a local boat are honest fishermen (99.999% of the boats you will see) or marauders.
  10. Talk to a lawyer, or look up the laws in your home country and state regarding what force is allowable for self-defense and for protection of property, and what actions on the part of an intruder would indicate their intent.  Regardless of what law (if any) would ultimately apply to any actions on your part, you will at least have some guidelines to begin your own personal debate on these issues.

And that's all I can think of on that subject, other than to say I'm grateful we have never had to fire our guns except in practice.

Q:  In all of your travels to different places, ports etc, and meeting so many people sailing the world, have you met any gay sailing couples?  How well are they received in the cruising community?

A:  I don't think sexual orientation is an issue with most voyagers.  At least, I can't imagine it would be in a lifestyle in which cultural diversity is a core feature.  We have met several same-sex cruising partners over the years, but I can't say that I know whether they are gay/Lesbian or not.  Not much of an answer -- sorry -- but it's the best I have.

Q:  Hi, First let me tell you that I appreciate the time you take to share your experience. My wife and I have no experience in offshore cruising of the type you relate but, are planning to cruise for at least two years and maybe longer after we retire. Right now we're looking at tons of boats, specifications, reading reviews, etc to decide which will be right for us. I realize that even after we buy a new boat additional equipment will have to be added to make it safe and comfortable for offshore/live-aboard cruising. That's what I wanted to ask you. What equipment would you say was mandatory to outfit a boat with? What isn't mandatory but you wouldn't wish to be without. Oh yeah, I guess I should tell you that we're looking at boats in the 42' to 48' range. Thanks for your time , have a safe and happy sail.

A:  If you survey 10 different circumnavigators on the question of mandatory equipment, you will get 10 completely different lists -- but here's mine.  Obviously, I won't include things that are standard equipment for every sailboat -- like sails and a mast and a dinghy! -- or basic safety equipment like PFDs and flares, but only things you would want to add to an existing seaworthy yacht if you intend to live aboard for a long time and to make multi-day passages.

Absolutely mandatory equipment for long-term bluewater cruising (in no particular order) in my opinion:

bulletGPS (plus handheld spares)
bulletAuto-pilot (interfaced with GPS)
bullet406 EPIRB
bulletSSB radio
bulletVHF radio with DSC capability
bulletFirst-class heavy-duty ground tackle, including an oversized primary anchor with plenty of chain and an oversized electric windlass
bulletPropane stove
bulletHand bearing compass
bulletAnd a bunch of little stuff like waterproof flashlights, fenders, really good thick long docklines, plenty of fans, binoculars, inflatable vests that can hank on to jacklines

Non-mandatory equipment I wouldn't want to be without:

bulletComputer (interfaced with GPS), with CD burner and/or DVD burner, firewire port, usb ports; plus software for sailmail, weatherfax, electronic chart system of some kind, a tides program, & Virtual Passage Planner
bulletIn-mast furling main
bulletFurling jib
bulletA watch-keeping alarm system, such as Watch Commander (Blinky)
bulletRefrigerator and freezer (dual-powered: a/c and 12-volt)
bulletPTC-II for SSB radio (for sailmail and weatherfax)
bulletNight-vision monocular
bulletFamily band radios with hands-free vox
bulletCanvas awning
bulletMOM (Man Overboard Module) or Lifesling

Luxuries that now I have them I don't know what I ever did without them

bulletMARPA and C-Map charting on the radar unit
bullet InmarsatC, or Iridium phone with data package
bulletAir conditioning (unless no tropical sailing planned)
bulletElectric winches and/or an electric winch handle
bulletScanner & printer for computer

Q: How much money did you save prior to beginning your voyage?

A:  We saved enough to (1) live at the same expenditure level we had on land, for the 5 years we planned for the circumnavigation; plus (2) an extra year's expenses just in case; plus (3) the down payment for our boat; plus (4) the coast of initially outfitting it with electronics, safety gear, dinghy, outboard, etc.  As I detail in questions below, it seems like we spend about what we did on land -- just for different categories of things. 

Of course, all of these numbers I treated as future cash streams, which I "discounted" to present value to get the amount we needed in hand before departure.  That is, I took into account that the money would remain invested, earning money on itself, until needed.  For a discount (interest) rate, I picked 7%, which seemed ludicrously low in 1997, but which has not been far off the mark given the overall market since then.  There are some more comments on budgeting and saving in some questions near the end of this section.

Q:  When you visit the countries you list, do you stay at Yacht Clubs or drop anchor? How often do you take on fuel for the engine? Thx.

A:  We sometimes dock at marinas or yacht clubs, and we sometimes anchor, depending on the circumstances.  For example, on the east coast of Australia, many anchorages are not particularly well-protected, and the marinas are inexpensive and very nice.  So we often stayed at marinas.  In much of the Caribbean and South Pacific, on the other hand, the anchorages are too perfect to spend any more time than necessary at the dock.  So we're pretty flexible about where we stay.

As to fuel, our Yanmar 100-hp turbo uses about 1.6 gallons of diesel per hour at 2600 RPM, which gives us a boat speed of about 7 to 7.5 knots.  AT 2000 RPM, we burn only 1 gal/hr but average only 5 or 5.5 knots.  The Onan 8kw generator, which we run for perhaps 3 or 4 hours per day when at anchor or underway, and not at all when at the dock, uses just under 1/2 gallon of diesel per hour.  How often we need fuel depends on (1) how much traveling we do; (2) whether we have enough wind to avoid using the engine; and (3) whether we stay at anchor or in a marina, where we don't need to use the genset for electricity.  Very generally speaking -- with our normal fuel capacity (not supplemented for ultra-long passages) of about 300 gallons, we calculate that we can go about 90 days or so with normal non-docking cruising before we have to fill up.  

Q: My wife, our two youngest children and myself are likewise trying a circumnavigation doing humanitarian and missionary work along the way, although we are primarily just having fun and wanting to see the world. We left just over a week ago from Ft. Lauderdale as well.  We would love to have a web site. How did you do it and keep it up while underway?

A:  I use Microsoft Front Page software to create it, and once you do the tutorial and actually read the manual, it is easy to do.  The software does all the work for you and is very flexible.  

Somewhat more challenging is uploading the updates.  To do so, you must use a computer that has Front Page on it.  So your choices are (1) to take the software and install it on the Internet Cafe computer you are using (which, believe me, they frown on in a very serious way if they catch you at it); then have your updates ready on a diskette or CD to upload; or (2) take your own laptop to the Internet Cafe and plug into their system.  For (2), I recommend you make sure you have a network card and a network cable.  In areas without Internet Cafes, we have been known to wheedle our way to a phone line (for example, in a restaurant, shop, or home) and to rent some time on the lender's dial-up ISP account.  In Tahiti, some of the public payphones have phone jacks for laptops -- an innovation I wish the rest of the world would adopt.  Of course, even then one has to buy pre-paid time for a local Internet Service Provider or else make that international call to the ISP at home.

Q:  Hi, I was wandering what are some things that preserves are doing to help the great white sharks, and captive breeding programs.  Thanks.

A: This question is way outside my knowledge base.  Here's what little I do know:  Great whites (called "white pointers" in Australia and New Zealand) are on the endangered species list in many countries, including Australia, and thus cannot be hunted or destroyed without government permission.

But I do have an opinion (surprise) -- and here's where I lose my environment-friendly status.  What is the actual point of encouraging them to exist in the same environment where humans routinely work, play and travel?  Anything that is actually above me on the food chain, I feel no need whatsoever to protect in the wild.

Q:  Just a comment from a wanna-be / soon-to-be liveaboard cruiser: Please keep up the website! I need it!

A:  No problem.  Cruisers have to re-invent the wheel all too often, but I'm hoping some of this stuff will save somebody some time and stress occasionally.

Q:  Hi - We're taking off cruising in Jan. and I am in the process of doing our website. The part I haven't done yet is the maps. I like your maps on the Passages and Ports page, especially the Map World Route. Where did you get your maps and how did you draw lines on them indicating your route. Any help or suggestions you can give me would be appreciated!

A:  I shamelessly copy the maps from the Internet, particularly the Perry-Castaneda Library Collection from the University of Texas.  If you search Yahoo or Google for "map" and the area you want, many excellent sites pop up.  I download the map as a *.jpg file, so it will be compressed and not take up quite so much room.  Then I pull it up in my photo-editing software (I have the basic Adobe Photo-Deluxe 2) and use the tools therein (a) to draw the lines showing our route; and (b) to decrease the file size further before I upload it to the website.  Fair winds.

Q:  We are having a cat built in Brisbane and will be following in your sea steps from July 2003. We will continue to follow your progress. Thank you again for this information. Just what a cruiser wants to know.

A:  Thanks!  Best of luck to you.  One quick thought, though, that you're not going to want to hear:  Most cruisers recommend that you always start a boat-building project by assuming the boat will take several months longer to finish and outfit than you originally estimated.  That way, you won't be quite so upset when the original departure date passes with so much still left to do!  On the other hand, also keep in mind that a boat, like great art and literature, is never truly "finished" but work merely abandoned for a time.  We're still trying to "finish" ours -- five years into the voyage!  Hope to meet you out here.

Q:  Hi members of Heartsong III, Great webpage you have and a great journey ! Are you coming around Borneo ? If you are, I would like to meet you guys. God vind ! (Safe wind & voyage, in Danish).

A:  Unfortunately, Borneo isn't on the route this time.  Maybe next time around!  Thanks very much for the kind thoughts.

 Q:  I know this may be a private issue and please do not feel you have to respond.  Do you carry weapons with you and if so what kind and have you had any problems clearing in?  

A:  Yes, we carry firearms.  And personally I'd like to toss them in the drink.  There are a bunch of related questions and answers above and below that answer the rest of your question.  Someday, I'll organize these Q&As into topics, but until then -- sorry -- just scroll down.  Or you can search the site (button at top) for "firearm."

Q:  We are looking for an internet service to use in the internet cafes.  I would like to know who your service is and what you have to do to get access.  We are planning on leaving right after hurricane season this year.  Just a short while to go.

A:  There are 2 issues to address with regard to Internet access at Internet Cafes.  I don't know how much experience you have with the Internet generally, so I'll assume none, and please forgive me if I am way too basic. 

1.  Internet Service Provider:  An ISP allows you general access to the Internet.  The beautiful thing about Internet Cafes is that they provide the ISP along with the computer.  That is, you don't need to have your own ISP.  So to get on the Internet at an Internet Cafe.  All you need to do is show up and say, "Internet, please," and they'll point you to a computer.  And that's that.

2.  Email server:  However, to send and receive email from an Internet Cafe, you need your own webmail server, so that you can have your own email address to give people  There are two that most cruisers use -- Yahoo and Hotmail, both of which are free.  I use Yahoo, so I know it and will give you instructions for signing up.  The way to sign up for Hotmail would be very similar.  But for Yahoo, first go to http://www.yahoo.com.  Click on the "email" icon.  You will then be prompted to sign in or sign up.  The first time, follow the signup instructions; thereafter, you will just have to sign in.  At the end of the signup, you will have a username, password, and email address.  Then, when you go to an Internet Cafe to check your email or to send some, all you have to do is:

bulletTell the person at the counter you need an Internet terminal.
bulletDouble click the "Internet Explorer" icon (or it may be open already).
bulletIn the "address" box, type http://www.yahoo.com.
bulletWhen the Yahoo home page comes up, click the email icon; then type in your username and password.
bulletWhen the email page comes up, click on "check mail," or "send mail," or follow the easy instructions to do whatever else you want to do.

It is possible to have your webmail (Yahoo or Hotmail) account pull up the email from your current address(es), so that you don't have to change the email address(es) using the ISP (see above) you use at your home or work computer, even though you're halfway around the world away from it.  For example, my Yahoo account is set to check and display all the email from each of my email addresses, so that I can read and store it all in one place.  To do that once you have a Yahoo account, click "Mail options," then "check other mail."  You will need the POP3 address, username and passwords for each account/address you want checked.

And by the way, you would be smart to go ahead and get signed up and road-tested on a webmail service such as Yahoo or Hotmail long before you leave, while you still have easy phone communications, etc.

Q:  I want to sail around the world but alas I have 2 children, 15 and 10. In your opinion do you think it's possible to bring them (homeschool, parenting and that sort of stuff) on a trip about the world?

A:  Absolutely.  We know many voyagers who are traveling with children.  There are apparently several accredited homeschool curricula that one can obtain and use just like correspondence courses.  The children that we meet out here seem to be unusually self-motivated and self-reliant.

Q:  How on earth are you doing this? (None of our business of course, but we are ready to sell up and sail out...)

A:  Almost any member of the American or European middle class can go sailing if he or she really wants to go.  All it takes is a willingness to pinch pennies, quit one's job, alienate family and friends, and destroy one's career path.  :-)  As discussed in more detail in one of the questions on budgeting below, we saved by cutting our lifestyle in half for several years before we left -- and that by definition allowed us to sail at the same comfort level we had on land for the same number of years, even assuming no return on the invested savings.

Q:  Why is this personal stuff splashed all over the internet...shouldn't this be at home in your private things?

A:  Good question.  Will give it some thought.

OK, I've given it some thought.  As long as I keep getting positive feedback from other voyagers and those planning a voyage, and therefore feel like I'm making a semi-useful contribution to the cruising community, I'll continue to splash away.

Q:  We are considering building a steel single-engine trawler for extensive bluewater travel.  My son gives high marks for a motorsail boat.  I have never done any sailing before, power only, and while the economics favor the motorsail, I would be interested to know your thoughts.

A:  The economics do favor having sails.  The mind boggles at the cost of feeding diesel into an engine for thousands of miles unnecessarily when the wind is free.  But the main consideration in my mind is safety if you are truly talking about bluewater sailing and not just coastal cruising.  What if your engine fails 500 miles from land in the path of an approaching storm?  What if you get a tankload of bad fuel?  The sailing capability would ensure that you can get to a port safely.

On the other hand, I'm a sailor -- and I've never owned a trawler.  So take my comments with a grain of salt and build the boat that fulfills your own dreams.  Fair winds . . ..  er, calm seas.

Q:  Could you please comment on the dark hull color in the tropics.  Did you have Heartsong insulated?  Appreciated the comforting comments about the Selden in-mast furling system.

A:  The dark hull has not been any problem at all in the tropics.  No, we didn't have any special insulation put in (apart from a huge amount in the refrigeration boxes), but we do have air-conditioning that we fire up from time to time in the heat of the day, or at night if it's too hot to sleep well.  Still, I have no impression of our boat being any hotter day or night than the white-hulled boats of our friends.  It hasn't been an issue.

I will recommend, regardless of hull color, that for tropical anchorages you get a "day awning" -- a small non-battened awning made of parachute-type material that scrunches down into a  really small sack.  This awning does not necessarily replace a proper full awning for long stays at anchor, but rather is designed for short stops.  Canvasmakers will try to talk you into having battens even in this small awning, but do not listen.  You may have to yell to get your way.  Use the boom, backstays, and shrouds to design tension points to keep the awning reasonably taut, flat, and high enough to walk under.  Ideally, the size should be very small -- just large enough to cover the cockpit and main saloon areas.  What you are after is something one person can put up in less than 5 minutes and take down instantly.  It will make a big difference to the temperature in the cockpit and below.  And because it is small and easy to put up and take down, you will actually use it, even for a lunch stop.  Ours works so well that we only rarely bother with the big tent.

Q:  How do you do.  I send this mail from Japan.  I need your video of Dugong for protecting them in Japan.  Please agree.  My English is not so good perhaps.  I am not good at studying.  But I feel to save Japanese dugongs.  Please allow to use your video.  Now, I can collect only 54 signature to protect them, and there are only less than 30 dugongs in Okinawa Island.

A:  Yes you may use the video, no problem.  Anyone may feel free to use anything on this website for any not-for-profit purpose.  As for your English, it is excellent -- and certainly a heck of a lot better than my Japanese -- so I'm guessing you are indeed very good at studying.  Best of luck with the dugongs.

Q:  My questions revolve around single-handed or short-handed passages.  Assuming I have all the standard modern safety features, I wonder about sleep.  It seems that in all the research I have done, most people set the radar for a 20-30 mile warning radius and wake up every 15-30 minutes to have a look around.  That sounds like a lot of sleep deprivation.  What do you recommend for sleeping while underway to keep reasonably safe?

A:  If you have 2 people, you have no problem.  I explained our watch schedule -- along with some comments on sleep requirements -- on our FAQ page (Q#4), if you want to have a look.  Most double-handed voyagers keep a "4 on, 4 off" schedule that allows them sleeping periods of at least 3 solid hours.  After trying this for a while, we went to "7 on, 7 off" at night so we could each get the equivalent of a normal night's sleep, and it works great.  We never sleep on watch.  One of us is always awake and scanning the horizon every 10-12 minutes (the amount of time it takes for a cargo ship steaming at normal speed of 20+ knots to reach you from the horizon if on a head-on collision course).  Because of the longer watches at night, we get enough uninterrupted sleep for reasonable physical and mental health.  After all this time, our body clocks just automatically go into passage mode when we head to sea.

The problem, of course, is -- how do singlehanders do it?  And frankly, I don't know.  They always sound a little cranky on the radio on long passages, and I cut them all the slack in the world.  Most seem to sleep in the cockpit with the radar alarm on, as you described.  Except for the Pacific and Atlantic crossings, you can keep most passages down to about 7 or 8 days -- not long enough for sleep-deprived psychosis to set in! -- and then I guess a singlehander must spend a few days in port catching up on rest.

An excellent device for double-handed watch-keeping is the "Watch Commander" (affectionately known as "Blinky"), invented by the voyagers on Sea Witch and available at SailSafely.com.   It is a small black box that runs on 12-volt power.  You set the timer for the time you want (3 minutes up to 24 minutes).  Every time you scan the horizon, you press the button and it automatically re-sets (unlike a kitchen timer or alarm clock).  If you do not press the button in the allotted time, a gentle beeping starts, and lasts for about 40 seconds.  If you do not press the button during that time, an all-hell-breaking-loose siren goes off.  So -- if you nod off on watch, you will be certain of being awakened in a timely fashion.  If you keep it near you, the gentle beeping is enough to wake you up, but it's not so loud that it disturbs the off-watch partner.  And if -- the cruiser's nightmare -- you should fall overboard, the siren will go off and wake the off-watch crew in good time to have a decent shot at finding you.

The bottom line on sleep, though, is that you don't get as much as you really need during a passage, and that's just the way it is.  The trick is to maximize your nightly sleep time (by, for example, making sure your partner is competent to perform all watch functions, sail changes, traffic avoidance, etc., on his or her own) and try to take catnaps during the day when you are off watch, whether or not you feel tired at the time.

Q:  What is the risk of actually hitting a sleeping whale, container, or other hazard while asleep?  And just out of curiosity, how often do cruisers see submarines, and do they pose a risk.  Do cruisers often encounter warships?  What is the protocol when one does encounter such a ship, regardless of what flag you fly or the warship flies? 

A:  At night, the risk of hitting a sleeping whale, container, or other hazard while you are asleep is exactly the same as hitting one while you are awake.  You can't see immediately ahead into the water at night at all (unless you spend your whole watch hanging over the bowsprit).  It's hard enough to see ahead even during the daytime to notice a partially submerged object in any kind of rough sea.  And it's impossible to see a submerged object at all, unless it's big enough to change the water color noticeably.  That's why in reef-strewn waters, such as in Fiji, it's good to travel only in bright daylight and to send someone up the mast as a lookout, because visibility is so much better from any kind of height.

On passage, collisions with whales and containers occur. It's hard to see how they can be avoided.  We almost hit a whale ourselves just last month near the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.  Luckily, he saw us before we saw him -- but he was just barely able to move away in time.  A forward-looking sonar is a handy device to "see" ahead, but of course you have to monitor it regularly and on long passages it uses a lot of power.  Still, the main reason we have one is for container-alert duty.

As for submarines, I think I may have seen one once in the Anegada Passage between the British Virgin Islands and St. Martin, but I wouldn't swear to it.  We do see warships from time to time, and it's always interesting, but they (so far) have never paid the slightest bit of attention to us.  Technically, if you are on the high seas and a warship is not from your home country, boarding would be illegal (actually, an act of war) unless some specific international treaty gave them the right for a specific purpose -- such as nabbing illegal fishermen.  Of course, if  they decide to board you, there's not much you can do but put out your fenders.  If you are not on the high seas, but rather are in the territorial waters of the warship, then they can board you at will for any purpose legal in their own country.  For a little more info on this topic, see the page on flags.

We have been told that the military activity in and near the Red Sea  has escalated tremendously lately, so we'll probably be seeing a lot more warships in the coming year.

Q:  I was curious how your computers have held up with regard to the moist salt air environment they are constantly subjected to.  Do you keep the PC "towers" in a semi-sealed enclosure with ducted cooling?  I am getting ready to outfit and would appreciate your input.

A.  We have laptops, not desktops with towers, but we have had no problems (knock wood) with the laptops in the salt air or with bouncing around as sailboats do.  When we were outfitting , we looked at some special-made voyaging-proof desktops and laptops with sealed enclosures and special extra spaces inside the CPU to prevent whatever components shouldn't hit each other from doing so.  However, so far the plain old Dell laptops have stood up just fine.  You are right, though, to be concerned with this environment for electronics.  It's brutal.

Q:  We are departing Australia for the South Pacific this year.  Do you recommend a water maker?

A:  I wish I could help, but it has been so long since we researched watermakers that I am quite certain our info is totally out of date.  We are very happy with our Village Marine Tec "Little Wonder," though, if that's any help.

Q:  What I want to learn is:  I think your journey couldn't be true for people who live in developing countries even if a world tour like yours is their dream.  In my country because of high inflation and frequently changing currency rates, sailing is something that rich people can achieve and others just dream and watch.  (One night you think that you are rich and the other day devaluation takes half of your savings. This all happens in one day.)  Do you only see couples from developed countries like USA and Europe?  So pleasures like the ones you have are for rich people of the developed world, not for the poor ones?  Do you think so?

A:  Thank you for putting our extreme good fortune into perspective.  I am very sorry to hear about the overnight loss of wealth that can occur in your country.  We have gotten to know people from more than 30 countries who live on their boats and sail, and many are far from rich, and not all are from developed countries.  However, you are correct.  It does take hard currency to accomplish a multi-year circumnavigation on a good seaworthy boat.  Although my husband and I worked very hard to save the money to make this dream happen, we are incredibly lucky that we were born into a country where education and hard work translate directly to monetary reward.  After four years of constant travel, sometimes to very poor islands and countries, we are very aware of the inequities among people in any one country, and among countries in the world.  But I stand firm in the belief that anyone who has the good fortune of a healthy body and mind can go a long way towards making his or her dreams happen.

Q:  My wife is a bit hesitant about committing to life afloat.  Can you convince her to try this lifestyle?

A:  Nope.  But maybe I can convince you to think of a lot of ways to make it comfortable and safe and fun enough for her to give it a try.  (In addition, please read related responses below and the "I did not go to sea to become a frontier housewife" section of the FAQs.)  I positively love this life, but I did go to the trouble in advance to pre-negotiate everything I need to maintain my comfort level -- starting with a big enough boat, enough pre-departure savings to see us through without worrying, and enough domestic and navigation equipment that I get to have fun and feel safe.

Q:  I am a board certified anesthesiologist in Texas and have been at my current position for 15 years.  I am looking for a locum tenens position in New Zealand.  I have already secured my leave with my practice and can be available January 1st 2003.  Who did you contact?

A:  Alan didn't work in New Zealand, but we knew a Texas anesthesiologists who did.  Try calling or looking up on the Internet an American locum company called Global Staffing  (sorry -- don't have the number).  Alternatively, call or email the New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, which may be listed as the Australia-New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.  I don't have any Internet access as I write this, or I'd be able to give a more helpful answer.  Good luck!

Q:  What a way to live......9-5 just doesn't satisfy the human sprit ya know!   Hey, I thought I would ask you a few questions about your route selection.   Looking back now 20/20 would you keep the same route that you have traveled?   I mean for weather and tactical reasons.   Number days on major passages?  (your Tonga video was very cool)   If you had to prepare for your first circumnavigation again, 5 years out -- What would you do now, that would better prepare you for departure? In other   Stuff like that.   Thanks in advance for your time on these questions.   Best of luck to you ya!

A:  Yes, we would definitely keep the same route.  Early on, we adopted the philosophy that you can't possibly see everything, and the route we are taking does its best to optimize different types of destinations and minimize weather hazards.  It's really important when planning a trip like this to spend time doing the research on (1) global weather patterns, particularly trade winds and hurricane/cyclone seasons; and (2) distance between destinations, so you can plan to accommodate those weather patterns.  An excellent book to get started with is Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes, which will also answer your questions on 3-month segments for a good route.

As for number of days on passage, that info is posted on this site on the logbook stats page.  

Now -- what would we do differently in financial preparation?  Oy.  Probably nothing.  By lucky accident, we sold our house a full year before we left.  But a lot depends on calculable factors.  Take into consideration your home mortgage payment (including the tax advantage) versus lease payments on a small apartment.  Factor in the expected amount of return on investment of your equity if you sell, versus expected appreciation of hour home's value in the same amount of time (depending on the state of the real estate market in your area).  If those numbers don't give you a clear indication of what's better to do (sell early or wait), then you can please yourself in the matter.  Emotionally, it was I think an easier transition for us to downsize first from house to small apartment for a while, and then to boat -- rather than go straight from house to boat.   

As for size of boat down payment, keep in mind that your boat mortgage payment will probably be tax-deductible (either as your main home or vacation home), so it makes some sense to keep the down payment as low as possible.  On the other hand, if you want to minimize the risk of having to sell the boat mid-trip if all your investments go south and you can therefore no longer afford the payment, then a larger down payment (and therefore a smaller monthly payment) makes sense.  Also, be aware that you will be required to maintain insurance for the value of your mortgage.  Many cruisers buy the best boat for which they can pay cash, so they don't have to worry about a payment at all.  There's no right answer to any of this.  It's just a matter of considering the issues and making the decision that is best for your particular situation and your comfort level.

Q:  My husband and I live in Belton, Texas, and sail a 25 Catalina.  I too would like to someday sail the ocean, but my question is . . . where did you get your training from?  As in navigation and reading charts?  And I would like to know about entering waters of other countries.  Do you have a certain visa for this?

A:  First of all -- hi to Central Texas.  My brother and nephew live in Belton, and Alan and I are both from Temple.  Here are some resources to get you started on ocean voyaging skills.  First, start reading magazines like Cruising World, Blue Water Sailing, and Ocean Navigator.  Not only are they informative in themselves, they also serve as a forum for advertisers who offer courses in offshore sailing and navigation.  Second, go to West Marine in either Austin or Dallas (or try their website) and look through their books and videos.  Another good resource for books and videos is Bluewater Books and Charts  in Florida.  Probably your best bet is to plan a vacation around going to a weekend or week-long sailing school that includes navigation or whatever other topics you want to learn.  There are many of them out there, and most advertise in the sailing magazines.  If you do that first, other avenues will start to open up for you to gain more advanced knowledge.

As to entering waters of other countries, you always have to make your first landfall at a formal "port of entry" and check in with customs and immigration officials.  Some countries require you to get an advance visa.  The United States State Department website posts "consular information sheets" for all countries, and those sheets advise what advance preparation must be made for arrival in each country.  For many foreign countries, Americans can get an automatic temporary visa upon arrival.  But there is no universal voyaging visa that you can get.  Every country on the trip must be researched and prepared for individually.

Q:  How do you update your charts and pilots?

Before every leg of the trip, I go to the local chart agent or NIMA website and read the Notices to Mariners, which publishes updates to existing charts and notifications when charts are replaced with new editions.  Then, I make the changes to our charts by hand, and if I have to buy updated charts, I do.  In between, we get notices on our Inmarsat-C of things like newly reported reef locations; lights and buoys that have been added, deleted, or are temporarily non-functioning; as well as shipping reports like wrecks, floating containers, long tows, or dredges in our particular area.

Q:  How do you find the Motorola "Freetalk" family band radios? Are they worth having?
Which watermaker would you recommend in regards to being able to find spare parts, use a minimum of power but with a good watermaking capacity? We haven't solar panels or genset and only carry 500L. Do they need a lot of maintenance? What and how often?

A:  In response to the first topic of your question, we use family band radios a lot, and we carry two brands of them: Motorola and Radio Shack.  In my opinion, having some sort of small, private, hands-free 2-way radio on board cuts down on at least 80% of anchoring fights between the person on the bow and the person at the wheel.  :-)  They are also handy in emergencies and when someone is up the mast.  I definitely recommend having a set, and a spare set.  If you want only one type, I recommend the Radio Shack version, but here are the main features and best uses of both types.

We use the Motorola family band radios on land and in the dinghy when we want to go our separate ways but stay in communication.  The "ringer" feature on the Motorola radios is handy for this purpose.  You can buzz the other person when you want to talk without keeping the radio live all the time.  For the dinghy, the Motorola radios look more water resistant than the Radio Shack radios.

On the other hand, we prefer the Radio Shack family band radios for communication on the boat.  The hands-free feature is crucial.  Although the Motorola has an optional headset, we find that the microphone, which needs to be right up against the mouth to work when it's windy, always seems to be in the way.  The Radio Shack radio, in contrast, has a very small earpiece (included with the radio) that magically functions as a microphone as well (something to do with vocal sounds vibrating through the ear bones -- it's a mystery to me), so with just the earpiece in and the VOX mode on, you can talk and listen without having to use your hands.

When we started cruising, we used handheld VHF radios, but they are bulkier and heavier than the family band radios.  Also, the ones we know of are not voice-activated and hands-free.  Also, everybody in the anchorage can hear you if you're talking (arguing, shouting, etc.) on the VHF.

As to the second part of your question -- watermakers -- we use the Village Marine Tec, and we like it a lot.  Although we researched other brands before we bought 5 years ago, I'm quite sure that info is obsolete, so I have no useful comments on which brand or type is best these days.  As to maintenance, a membrane should last many years, and since the shelf life of an un-connected membrane is only two years tops, it really doesn't even make any sense to carry a spare.  As long as you briefly fresh-water flush the membrane every week or so and do the recommended chemical cleaning once or twice a year, there's really not much maintenance at all to do.  Our watermaker has been (knock wood) extremely reliable.  The main thing is to use it daily.  The only time it will give you trouble is if it sits unused for more than a few days.  For long periods of time on the hard or anchored in an oily port, the membrane must be pickled and stored.

As to some thoughts on water capacity and watermaker power usage, along with the rationale for my opinion that a watermaker is crucial cruising equipment, please see the question somewhere below that discusses those issues in depth.

Q:  Hi, I´m a 23-year-old sailor who lives in Argentina. I just wanted to congratulate you, your web page is amazing. Keep updating it! Have a great voyage and thanx for making others dream away with you :)

A:  Thanks very much.  I appreciate the kind words.  Hope you always have fair winds and following seas.

Q:  I am thinking of buying a 47 foot sailing yacht to go cruising. My wife and kids hate yachts. We have a 38-foot power boat, and they do not want me to sell her.  I have not done much sailing, but willing to learn.  Do you think that I am doing the wrong thing?  I would appreciate your comments.  I know that I will have to learn a lot before I go on a cruise.

A:  Lord have mercy.  It sounds to me that whether or not you should buy a sailing yacht and go cruising depends on whether or not you want to stay married.  Cruising is tough on a relationship even when both partners are very enthusiastic about the whole thing.

We know more than a few couples who have experienced the following scenario:  Man wants to have wonderful, rugged, primitive, self-sufficient life on water and see world, cross oceans.  Woman gamely but reluctantly gives up career and/or 21st Century American domestic life to accompany.  Man very happy as Captain Of Ship (so long as he is not expected to hand-wash clothes in bucket, hand-wash dishes in saltwater, homeschool children, de-mildew all possessions, do provisioning for months at one time, can meat and preserves, clean heads, pick bugs out of flour, cook in pitching storm while seasick, etc.).  Woman miserable, homesick, hates being wet and scared so often, doesn't get to do anything she likes anymore, sees skin getting scaly and wrinkled from saltwater and sun, gets fed up, takes first plane out from next civilized port, uses her half of cruising kitty to buy condo in Boca Raton.  Man gets divorce papers by email.

Could this be you?

(By the way, I emphasize the domestic tasks in the scenario above for a very good reason.  When planning a cruise, many men don't really take into account that all domestic tasks not only take much longer on a boat than in a modern house, but they are also physically more difficult and just not very much fun at all.  On board a boat, even more so than on land, equitable division of domestic duties is a serious issue.  I have said it before:  I did not go to sea to become a frontier housewife.)

Here's a suggestion -- and it assumes that you don't affirmatively want to get rid of your wife and kids.  You don't say where your 38-foot power boat is based, but why not take some time off and cruise in that for a while, a little closer to home (both literally and metaphorically).  The North American inland waterways are long and magnificent, from the St. Lawrence River in Canada through the Great Lakes, down all the way to New Orleans; or the Inland Passage from the Erie Canal down the East Coast of the United States to Florida.  As an additional example, the Bahamas are not only easily within a power boat's range, but they lend themselves perfectly to power boat cruising.  Or it may be possible (you'd have to check) to do the western coast of Mexico by power boat.

Maybe a trip like that might make your wife and family come to love life on the water. 

Q:  I reviewed your chart list and noticed that no pilot's charts were listed.  How were you able to judge currents and predominate wind patterns?

A:  We don't carry pilot charts.  Instead, we use a wonderful software product called Visual Passage Planner, available from Digital Wave.  It has currents and wind patterns for the entire world, for every month.  Moreover, for any given passage, it will give you a report of distance, estimated time of passage (given your boat's characteristics), expected wind direction and speed, percentage possibility of gales and calms, percentage of time projected to be spent on each point of sail, and much other excellent information.  It will also suggest alternate, faster routes to your destination given wind, weather, and currents for the month of travel.  In short, it is one of the most useful cruising software packages we have ever seen, and we use it all the time.

Q:  Has malaria been a concern for you, if so do you take pre-cautionary medicine?

A:  Yes, malaria is still a very big problem -- particularly in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia.  Before anyone undertakes a sailing trip to the tropics, I strongly recommend that you see not just your family doctor, but a tropical disease specialist.  Malaria can actually kill you, and quickly.

Malaria is spread solely by mosquitoes.  The type of mosquito that spreads the disease is active primarily at dawn and dusk.  If you avoid land during those time periods, and wear a strong DEET insect repellant at all times, you will minimize your chances of getting bitten.  Given normal breeze conditions at an anchorage, if you anchor well out from shore, chances are you won't get any mosquitoes on the boat.

Our personal rules are these: (1) avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes to the extent humanly possible; and (2) if passing through a high-risk area for a short time, such as a few weeks, take preventive malaria medication.  (Most people seem to agree that taking the medication daily for a long-term stay is not a good idea.)  Rule #1 above is the only effective way of avoiding dengue fever as well, for which there is no preventive medication.

In most places, malaria is resistant to the old drugs, and either Larium or Doxycyclene is recommended.  Although the jury is still out, there is persuasive evidence that Larium can cause a type of disorientation particularly dangerous for SCUBA diving.  Accordingly, we use doxycyclene instead for prevention, but we carry Larium to use as treatment in case we actually come down with the disease.  Your tropical disease specialist can give you "packs" of a malaria treatment combination of drugs.

But as usual with most voyaging issues and problems, all you can do is research the risk, minimize it, and hope for the best.

Note added January 2003:  We now know 3 cruisers on 2 different boats who got malaria in Indonesia and spent some quality time in a Singapore hospital.  And we know several cruisers who have contracted dengue fever in Thailand, northern Malaysia, and the southern Caribbean.  My advice: Stock up on DEET and the latest mosquito-repelling technology before you leave home; and use it.

Q:  My husband and I have both just retired and plan to start a trip "where the wind takes us".  We are leaving from Adelaide [Australia] around September. What have you found you have needed in your first aid kit? It has possibly been a bit easier for you as Alan is a Dr. (I retired after 37 years as an RN/midwife.) 

A:  First of all, good on ya for setting sail -- though I can't say I envy you the trip through the Bass Strait if you head east.  And by the way, as a Registered Nurse for 37 years, you have probably treated far more of the sorts of problems you will encounter on your trip than Alan ever did as an anesthesiologist [anaesthetist] before we left!  You will be a very welcome person in every anchorage.

Whatever you decide to carry in your kit, be sure to keep (1) an updated inventory of every single medication with amounts for customs purposes; and (2) a notebook or envelope with all prescriptions.  In our medical kit are the following items (and we carry many extras, as you probably should, too, to assist cruisers and villagers when they need medical help):

bulletSterile bandages, various sizes
bullet"Butterfly" bandages, various sizes
bulletBandage tape
bulletSuture kit
bulletVarious anti-bacterial ointments, alcohol prep pads, iodine
bulletSteroid creams
bulletIV bags, needles, tubes, and solution
bulletTweezers, scissors
bulletAnti-malarial (larium & doxycyclene)
bulletAnti-nausea & seasickness
bulletAntibiotic (broad-spectrum)
bulletCold capsules
bulletPain, including ibuprofen with codeine available over-the-counter in New Zealand and Australia (but no narcotics or other injectable pain medications -- they are just too risky to have on board when traveling from country to country)

Q:  When you are in the middle of big blue, do you ever cool off with a dip/swim in the sea?  If so, do you worry about sharks?  Do you take any precautions such as shark repellent, a lookout, or just avoid swimming in big blue?

A:  We often just jump in.  I think to be attacked by a shark in mid-ocean would be similar bad luck to being hit by a bus on land, or possibly having a piano dropped on your head while walking down the sidewalk.
Having said that, though, we minimize our risk by never swimming at night; never swimming in really murky water, always swimming with a face-mask so we can look around under water; never swimming with a bleeding wound; never acting like a distressed fish (for example, by splashing around unnecessarily); asking after landfall for local knowledge of un-safe swimming areas (for example, the bays where local fishermen clean their catch); usually carrying a scuba-knife or spear-gun; and basically paying attention.  So far, so good -- knock wood.  We do know cruisers who have been victims of shark attacks while swimming in anchorages or on reefs near anchorages, but never mid-ocean and no fatalities.  To REALLY minimize your risk while enjoying the ocean, I would say never spear-fish; never swim in coastal southern Australian or South African waters; and never swim alone (so you won't bleed to death with nobody to help you).
As to shark-repellant products, we haven't tried them.  A recent (April 2002) fatality off the South Australia coast involved a pro diver using an electronic shark-repellant device.  The diver was attacked by a huge Great White (called a White Pointer in Australia), which bit off his leg at the hip.  The company that manufactured the repellant device issued a statement that the device was old and obsolete.  (But presumably it was originally marketed as effective, or no one would have bought it, right??)  The problem with those devices is -- how can you possibly test them yourself to make sure they work?  You can't know whether they're effective until they are proven catastrophically not to be. Seems to me that the very nature of that industry invites gullible buyers and fraudulent sellers.  I would be very happy to be proved wrong on that.

Having said that, though, there is a new product on the market called "Shark Shield," available in Australia and South Africa.  It is a small battery-driven device that straps to one's ankle, trailing an antenna.  Based on the technology used at the Sydney Olympics for the triathlon, it purports to generate a 2- to 3-meter field that sharks hate and will avoid even if hungry.  It retails for about US$360.  If I have time to go look at it before we leave Sydney, I may pick one up.  But again -- how will I ever know if it works, unless I find out definitively that it doesn't??!!

Q:  I have a question.  What did it cost to purchase your boat at the time u did, including all the add-on options, and what were the add-ons over base boat and price.  I mean list of options and prices.  Thanks.

A:  Sorry.  Our purchase agreement with Hylas was expressly confidential.

Q:  In 18 months I am planning on taking a 3-year leave of absence from the "real" world for a solo circumnavigation. I am in my early thirties, and one of the things I find scary is....mmmmm...how to say this....sex...or lack there of on the high seas while in the prime of life.  I know any good sailor must be self reliant and "handy" in fixing things, but the idea of not having a sex life for three years is kind of daunting.  How do single cruisers deal with it?  I can’t imagine finding “pick-up bar” on any chart.  Any comments on what to expect in terms of attitudes from the cruising culture and other groups?  I hope I did not offend you, but I have looked all over the trade magazines Q/A and no one has touched the topic.

A:  Congratulations!  You have sent a question that I have never gotten before!  And since I have no clue how to respond -- I have been happily married for 18 years, and the vast majority of cruisers are in committed relationships -- I think what I'll do is pass your email along to a few singlehanders I know.  They probably don't check their email that often, so it may be a while before you hear, but I'll wager at last one of them will respond to you directly.

I can answer part of your question -- "what to expect in terms of attitudes from the cruising culture."  This is definitely not a "swinging" culture, but neither is it judgmental.  In other words, you would be extremely unlikely to find partners among voyaging spouses, but your love life with single crew or local residents is your own business.  In fact, most voyagers enjoy having a little something to gossip about, so any contributions you can make in that department will be very welcome on a slow news day -- assuming you don't make a jerk of yourself hitting on other people's partners.

I will tell you, though, that there is a major danger out here of falling in love, either for the first time or all over again.

One more thought:  Visit your doctor (or preferably a travel-disease specialist) and get inoculated against all third-world STDs possible.  Also, carry whatever treatments for STDs that your doctor can prescribe.  You certainly don't want to end your trip with hepatitis, or worse, in a third-world hospital.

Q:  We are just in the process of buying a PTC II and using it with our SGC 2000 radio on our sailboat.  Can you tell us if you are happy with this.  We are having some RF problems right now with the SGC that we are trying to fix. 

A:  We are very happy with our PTCII, and we recommend it and sailmail (radio email) to all prospective cruisers.  As for the RF problems, we had them, too, and took the following steps to reduce them.  First, we put plastic spacers (cut up from tubing) between the antenna and our backstay, all the way up, so that there is about 2 inches of space between the two wires.  Second, we moved our tuner to the aft lazarette, closer to the antenna.  According to the manual, they shouldn't be more than about 9 feet, I think, apart.  Third, we turn everything else off, including fans and inverters, when communicating by SSB.  Fourth, and this is just for better propagation, we added many, many feet of extra copper grounding in the bilge.  Our reception improved, but I'll tell you that we still don't have quite as good reception and broadcast strength as some other boats seem to have, and I've given up worrying about it.

Another benefit of the PTCII is that it can be used for weatherfax reception as well (with JVC weatherfax software).  We get much better pictures using the PTCII than we did straight from the radio.  

Q:  How far is Grenada from Florida?

A:  About a 9- to 12-day sail from Ft. Lauderdale to Mt. Hartman Bay, if you go non-stop.

Q:  Last year we bought an Adams 42; she is 4 years old.  We have done a few modifications and will be ready to start on our trip in around October.  We  can carry around 400 liters of water (we do not have a watermaker).  Will this be sufficient?  What do you do to ensure water is safe for drinking?

A:  Since I still think in quarts and gallons, I'll convert your water capacity to be about 100 gallons.  Whether that amount is "enough" depends in part on how willing you are to shower, cook, and do dishes in salt water.  It also depends on how happy you are to put into otherwise unattractive ports just for water, and/or to haul water overland.  I realize that I have a lot to say on this subject, so bear with me.

According to Lin Pardey, in her excellent book The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew, the average coastal cruiser or boat at anchor needs water at the absolute minimum rate of about 1.5 gallons/person/day.  The amount assumes that the salt water in many ports will not be suitable for showering or cooking.  

On passage, when clean salt water is readily available for bathing, doing dishes, and some cooking (1/3 salt water to 2/3 fresh water to cook vegetables, rice, etc.), Pardey recommends a minimum allowance of 3 quarts/person/day.  This amount assumes, however, that you will be doing very little laundry, if any, during the passage.  This amount does not include an emergency reserve of 1 pint/person/day times half the days you expect to be on passage.  (Obviously, passages sometimes take much longer than planned, and emergency drinking water is a must.)

Now much as I love her book, I have to admit that we use three times that much water, even when we are as frugal as we can comfortably and healthily be.  I have tried to use her guidelines, and frankly I would call them . . . unrealistic.

Here are a couple of the reasons:

Showering in salt water, even if one rinses in fresh water, will over time result in skin problems for most people.  Contrary to landlubbers' beliefs, salt water is teeming with bacteria, and sooner or later it will cause skin sores, irritation and infection.  Even for people with high skin tolerance levels, it will often make the skin dry and scaly.  Accordingly, we shower and wash hair 100% in fresh water.  Even with "sailor showers" (quickly get wet, turn water off, soap up, quickly rinse), the amount of fresh water adds up, especially if you have a low tolerance for being dirty and/or smelling bad.

Washing clothes and linens in salt water is also an unacceptable option to most (female) full-time cruisers that I know.  As discussed in a question below, unless the clothes and linens are thoroughly rinsed in fresh water, the cloth will never become totally dry.  As a result, all will become mildewed and/or otherwise smelly.  Moreover, to rinse saltwater out of towels takes me a heck of a lot more fresh water than if I am just rinsing soap out of the towel after washing it with fresh.  So I don't think the savings in this area are in any way worth the effort or the potential down-side.  But again, much depends on personal comfort requirements.

Now, you have 100 gallons of fresh water.  You didn't say, but I will assume there will be two of you on the boat.  Given the normal cruising percentages of 80% in port or at anchor, and 20% underway or on passage, that gives you the following water budget:

My usage:  About 4 gallons/person/day, including emergency spare.  That would give you on average about 12.5 days of fresh water before having to fill up again.  At that rate, you will probably not be able to cross the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian Oceans without substantial extra water in jerry jugs.

Lin Pardey's usage:  About 1.4 gallons/person/day, including emergency spare.  That would give you almost 36 days between fill-ups, probably enough for any passage.

The best advice I can give you is to keep track for a few days with a couple of gallon jugs just how much water you are using now on land.  Try to get it down to the absolute minimum, and decide for yourself whether 100 gallons is enough without a watermaker.  As a bit of perspective, the average American landlubber uses more than 65 gallons per person per day.  

(Also, you might want to practice hauling 100 gallons of water in those jugs a couple of hundred meters, or whatever distance you think might exist between a village water spigot and a beach, where your dinghy is hypothetically anchored.  Of course, if you are planning to stay in areas where modern marinas exist for the entire trip, ignore this last suggestion.)

Now for the second part of your question:  safety of drinking water.  There are several easy ways you can treat tank water that you obtain on shore to try to make it safe to drink.  First, chlorinate it.  For this you may use clorox-type liquid, or go to a swimming pool supply store and buy large chunks of industrial-grade solid chlorine.  The chunks require far less storage space, but they are very poisonous, even just with skin contact (so ask at the store about safety measures).  Over about 24-48 hours, the chlorine will kill most bugs in the water, and then will dissipate to allow you to drink it safely.  Alternatively, boil water for at least 5 minutes before you drink it.  Or, purchase an electronic device now on the market that will disinfect a glassful of water in about a minute.  (Sorry, I'm blanking on the name of the device right now, but will add it later if I think of it.)  The last two suggestions are impractical for disinfecting water used for brushing teeth, showering, or doing dishes; and some bugs -- notably giardi lamblia -- can easily be contracted in those ways.

The color or clearness of fresh water coming out of the local spigot has absolutely nothing to do with whether it will kill you or not.  You simply can't tell by looking.  We know of several cruisers who have contracted giardia lamblia from drinking fresh water obtained ashore on remote islands.  On one boat, the wife became so ill from "crystal clear" water obtained at Fatu Hiva that the couple was forced to go home, and worse, to sell the boat to pay medical bills.  

The best possible solution -- and my strong recommendation -- is to install a watermaker.  In the space you need to store jugs of emergency drinking water while on passage, you can install a watermaker that makes about 6 gallons per hour, on 12-volt power that can be generated with solar panels.  Moreover, there are now good "hand-held" models that can be installed in a bracket to make them portable in the event that a liferaft must be boarded.  The watermaker essentially distills water so that there is zero chance of bacteria surviving.  It prevents the necessity of ever having to rely on local fresh water for any purpose.

My opinion (take it or leave it) is that a watermaker is second only to a GPS in importance of "optional" equipment onboard a long-distance cruising boat.  Human beings can sail for long periods of time without food or fuel, but we simply can't survive without safe fresh water.

Q:  What was your average daily run on passages?  Do you think it makes sense for a couple to select and outfit a boat with guest accommodations in mind?  Do you have many visitors?  What do you use your second cabin for?  Do you often use the washer/dryer?  Is it worth having?  Do you use your air conditioning unit?  Wishing you fair winds . . .

A:  Whew, that's a lot of questions.  I'll tackle each one in turn.

Our average daily run in all conditions has been 7.9 knots (entrance to entrance) -- from a high of over 12 knots on a run between Tonga and New Zealand to a low of about 2 knots on the east coast of Australia, with the 4-knot adverse Great Australian Current, light headwinds, and a short choppy sea.  When I plan a passage, I use 6.9 knots as the low average speed and 8.9 knots as the high average speed, and plan an appropriately timed landfall for both.  This equation works pretty well for passages of three or more days, but shorter passages can be more variable.  For example, we averaged almost 10 knots on the overnight between Moorea and Bora-Bora and got there well before first light, so we had to stand off for a while until we could see to enter the reef.

As to guest accommodation, we have two spare sleeping cabins, and no we don't have many visitors, but we look forward very much to the ones we have.  The forward guest cabin sits largely unoccupied, though, and over the years I convert more and more of it to storage.  The portside guest cabin went to storage and work space a long time ago.  But since it is essentially a sleeping cabin, the space is not optimally designed.  If I had it to do again, I would make the small portside cabin into a permanent workbench and major spare parts storage area.  Ideally, we would have one reasonably comfortable double cabin forward for guests, with much of the cabin space maximized for storage or possibly desk space, and then we would have the settee and/or convertible dinette for any overflow sleep-aboard visitors.  It is so nice to have family and friends visit us, that I would certainly not get rid of visitor sleeping space altogether.  When they do come, you want some privacy for them and for yourself as well.

As to the washer-dryer, yes we use it several times a week when not at the dock or otherwise near a good laundry service.  It is great, and I love it, and I would really, really miss it if it weren't there.  (See FAQ ##14 & 15).  But there are other options -- some good, some not so good.  For example, in the South Pacific many islands have a laundry service but the water is sometimes brackish, and one's clothes return gray and stiff.  Furthermore, cloth exposed to salt water without adequate fresh water rinsing will never get completely dry and will often therefore proceed to mildew.  This applies both to laundry washed in brackish water and/or dried in the rigging at the mercy of salt-water spray.  In contrast, the Caribbean and populated areas of the Pacific have many excellent services that do a fine job in modern machines for a ridiculously small amount of money.  So the answer of whether the on-board machine is worth it depends on 

bullet(a) your tolerance for sometimes badly laundered or mildewed clothes, towels, and bedsheets in places with a laundry service but limited fresh water supplies; 
bullet(b) your tolerance for doing all the above laundry in a bucket when there is no shore service at all; and 
bullet (c) your available space and power.  

To run a washer-dryer, you also need a genset.  As for fresh water usage, though, the machine uses less than large-scale hand washing.  A 54-foot boat has plenty of space, and having a genset and washer-dryer makes very good practical sense.  On a 35-foot boat, however, it would probably be a waste of space more usefully used differently.  Anything in between, and it's up to your personal priorities.

As to the air-conditioner, yes we love it and use it.  It is the nature of cruising to seek out hot-weather climates, and the a-c can make a big difference when conditions are extraordinarily hot and muggy, sometimes too much so to sleep well, for example.  What we usually do is to run the a-c whenever we have the genset on anyway to charge batteries.  And always just before bedtime, we run it for an hour to cool down the aft cabin.  Then, because the boat is well-insulated, we sleep with hatches closed and locked for night-long coolness and security.  There are some circumstances when we run the a-c more often -- for example, when one of us is ill; or when it is hot and raining and we can't keep the hatches open for the breeze; or when we are at the dock with free power to spare.

And here's a hint we discovered with our first boat back in the 80s: If you are building a boat and think you may ever want air-conditioning -- either for yourself or for resale -- have the ducting built in during construction, even if you don't immediately add the compressor and blowers.  Once a boat is built, it is very difficult to add the ducting later.

Like the washer-dryer issue, deciding on an air-conditioner is a cost-benefit analysis where cost is not only dollars and cents but also a function of space and power.  Benefit, as always, depends on personal preference.


Q:  I am looking at a new 54 Hylas for coastal cruising in Florida and the Bahamas. Any suggestions regarding in-mast vs. boom furling systems, cutter or sloop design?  Any other comments or changes you would make after your experience would be appreciated.  Thank you and good luck.

A:  Both types of mainsail furling have vigorous proponents.  Both have evolved significantly in the past few years.  At the time we got ours, in-mast looked a little better developed and more bug-free, and I understand it is now possible to have a battened or partially battened main with that system.  On the other hand, we see more in-boom furling systems here in the Pacific, and owners swear by them.  So basically, you have two good choices.  Sorry I can't be of more help.  The one thing I would say is that if you plan to sail shorthanded, a furling main plus GPS-interfaced autopilot is the equivalent of one very competent extra crew member.

As to cutter vs. sloop rig, I do have an opinion.  In retrospect, I would certainly have had the boat rigged as a cutter, with both a furling headsail and a furling staysail.  The sailing options are much increased with that configuration, especially when going to weather.  Plus you automatically have a storm rig in place (assuming you use a storm-sized staysail on passages). 

Q:  You have such a beautiful and professional website. How did you set it up and how do you maintain it on your travels?  Keep it up. Your enthusiasm is helping us plan our getaway.

A:  Thanks, Mom.  I know that it's probably you saying those nice things.

As to updating the site, I don't do it very often.  Whenever the mood strikes, I find a nice friendly phone line ashore to which I can attach my laptop, and bob's-your-uncle.  The real work is done by FrontPage website software, Adobe PhotoDeluxe software, and Pinnacle digital video editing software.

Q:  We are looking to buy a sail boat for our retirement.  I am wondering about the ease with which this craft is sailed.  Do you need more than 2 people?  In comparison to other boats you looked at, how does price, maintenance  etc.....stack up with the HYLAS?

A:  Virtually any boat up to probably 70 feet or so can be sailed double-handed with the right equipment and knowledge.  In particular, it is good to emphasize the following items: 

bulletRun all lines to the cockpit so one person on watch can do most chores without risking going on deck alone.
bulletIf one or both partners are not as strong as a young-ish physically fit man, install electric winches or get an electric winch handle.
bulletHave a roller-furling headsail, and seriously consider a furling main (either in-mast or in-boom), so that one person can easily reduce sail from the cockpit
bulletFor both partners, get enough education and experience so that each can operate all the systems on the boat and navigate competently alone.

Having said all that, yes the Hylas 54 -- as we have configured it -- is very, very easy to sail doublehanded.  The only time we ever wish we had crew is when we have to dock a boat this large with no help from shore, but even then there has never been a big problem.  Some of our dockings have not been pretty, but all's well that ends well, and you can't be excessively fussy about your paint job out here or you'll go crazy.  :-)

As to value for money, I will say that I think the Hylas is comparable in sailing quality, comfort, sturdiness, and aesthetics to boats that cost far more (but of course I would say that, wouldn't I?).  A more objective testament to bluewater sailing fitness, regardless of price, is this:  On just our dock at Gulf Harbour Marina in New Zealand were -- to our astonishment as they kept arriving -- four Hylas yachts that had all made the trip from the States in fine fashion, and all were older and smaller than ours.  For our repair and maintenance details, see our maintenance logs.

Q:  Do you have any suggestions or thoughts about seasickness remedies?

A:  There is certainly no shame in seasickness.  Many cruisers have it for part or all of every passage.  Do not, however, act on the following random lay-person opinions until you have fully discussed them with your doctor.  [Sorry for the disclaimer.  I'm a lawyer and I can't help myself.]

The best non-pharmaceutical way to avoid seasickness is (a) keep a little something in your stomach at all times (nibble crackers, etc., but not to anywhere near fullness); and (b) take the wheel or focus exclusively on the horizon.  These techniques work beautifully, and I have been lucky enough never to have had to turn to medication as a result.

If, however, you are prone to severe seasickness, the scopolamine "patch" is widely available again after having been off the market to deal with what we heard was a problem in the dermal delivery system.  Some of our friends swear by it, but they do not recommend wearing it in the traditional behind-the-ear location.  Particularly for women, the preferred location is the bum, a fattier part of the anatomy, where absorption is slowed down and uncomfortable side-effects reportedly minimized as a result.  It is unclear whether the drug affects women differently, or if it is a relative weight issue or skin density issue or what, but empirically speaking, cruising women report great success with the patch stuck to their backsides.  A man who suffers scopolamine side effects (dry mouth, disorientation, dizziness, malaise) might profit from experimenting with different attachment spots as well.  After, of course, consulting with a physician.  [Sorry.]

The old standby over-the-counter drug is Dramamine.  However, it knocks most everybody out cold -- not a viable option when you are on short-handed passage, but a good alternative under some circumstances.  Another option that Alan has tried with success is Metachlopromide, which must be prescribed by a physician.  The Met does not make Alan drowsy, and he likes it a lot.

Above all, I repeat, follow your doctor's instructions for all seasickness medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter.  [Sorry.  Sorry.]

If you find yourself past the point of no return, keep in mind that seasickness may well continue for days.  It is crucial that you stay hydrated.  Water usually won't stay down, but Gatorade or a similar sports drink often will (plus it replenishes electrolytes you will have lost.)  Most sports drinks come in a powder, mixable form; and I strongly recommend that you provision it lavishly and mix up a jug before every passage.  It is also excellent for hangovers.

Q:  Hello.  I enjoyed reading through your website.  We, my wife and I, are a few months from rejoining the cruising life, a life that we enjoyed for nine years.  Our home (a lovely old house that's for sale) has been our port for 13 years, but with a married daughter and no more major responsibilities, we're off.  Here's my question:  You mentioned that the average cost per year for cruising is between $25,000 to as much as you have, basically.  Does that estimate include boat payments and health insurance?  I'm a retired Navy pilot, and we're going to try to make it on just my retirement without using any other income or assets.  Also, our boat will be paid for, and our medical insurance is low cost (less than $400 per year for the both of us.)

A:  Congratulations on heading back to sea!  As they say down under, "Good on ya!"  Well done.

How much you spend will depend solely on your own priorities, seamanship, and luck.

Having said that, I will offer what little help I can by relaying information from cruisers we know who do cruise happily and extensively on US$25,000 per year.  They (a) do the vast majority of their own work -- such as bottom painting, diesel repair, sail maintenance, etc.; (b) have no boat payment; (c) are self-insured, except for catastrophic health-care coverage; (d) have a boat in the smaller size range (about 38 feet) so that equipment, spare parts, dockage, and annual hauling are proportionately less expensive; (e) describe themselves as reasonably frugal by nature; but (f) feel that they don't miss much in the way of sightseeing or fun, even if it's a bit of a splurge.

It may well be that one might cruise responsibly on less than the $25,000 figure, if that is what you are really asking if it is possible to do.  For example, the longer you stay per anchorage, the less your spending will be.  And the explanation is apparent.  The more time you spend on passages, which on average will have rough bits, the more equipment will need to be repaired or replaced.  Changing countries requires payment of new customs & immigration fees.  Familiarity with a place usually leads to finding bargain shopping.  Annual fuel consumption and chart buying can be minimized by limiting your area of voyaging.  And so on.  The $25,000 minimum that has been under discussion in these pages is a random guideline for voyagers who have a circumnavigation plan, or who otherwise intend to cover a fair amount of water.

Many of our friends move up and down the Caribbean every year, lingering for weeks and months in their favorite spots.  There's a lot to be said for that -- and not only economically!

Q:  I noticed in the FAQ/recent questions the information on firearms declaration/storage, etc.  With the oftentimes heavy restrictions/prohibitions on firearms ownership in other countries, is there ever any issue with the customs authorities attempting to permanently seize your rifle/shotgun? 

No.  At least not legally.  In a couple of island countries, cruisers (not us, knock on wood) have had their guns "lost" by customs, and in Fiji, some friends of ours were never able to recover their ammunition -- again declared "lost" by the customs officials involved.

Q:  Did you decide not to carry a handgun on board because of foreign restrictions? 

In part.  First, it's much easier for a handgun to go missing, simply because it's so much smaller and easily stashed.  Second, even countries that allow cruisers to keep firearms (NZ, Australia, some island countries) don't allow handguns.  Finally, customs officials seem not to be the least bit squeamish about shotguns and rifles, but we have seen them search entire boats of people who declare handguns.  For some reason, it must put a person in a particular "profile" that seems to invite closer scrutiny. 

Q:  If you're required to surrender your firearms while visiting a specific country, is that only while you're in a formal port/harbor? 

No, it's while you're anywhere in the country.

Q: Does carrying firearms mean that you have to make your initial landing in a new country at a port that has official customs facilities? 

Yes, but you always have to do that anyway.

Q:  Have you encountered any problems when you leave the port (and have retrieved your firearms) but are still planning to visit other islands in that country/territory? 

That is never allowed.  You have to either clear completely out of the country at the port where you entered, in order to retrieve your firearms; or have them shipped to your final port (an iffy proposition in developing countries).  

The main thing that deters us from deviating from the rules is that firearms violations are always serious offenses -- sometimes punishable by large fines or even impounding the boat.  We saw one French cruiser in Tobago be fined US$2,000 for failing to declare his shotgun, which the officials found while doing a random search of boats in an anchorage.  His boat papers and passport were held until he paid.

Q:  After reading the piracy accounts on your site, it got me thinking more about this issue -- whether we should carry guns or not.  Any thoughts?

Opinions on carrying firearms vary widely in the cruising community.  Many think that just having them invites violence.  Many think they are essential protection.  I think mainly that they're a pain, but I'm too paranoid to get rid of them. 

Q:  On a somewhat related note, does the national registry of the vessel impact the treatment you receive from customs authorities?  For instance, have you noticed any other cruisers receiving better/worse treatment simply because they're flying a Swedish or French or ???? flag on their boat.  I'm not suggesting that they're misrepresenting their nationality or registration, just that their vessel is registered in and/or they are citizens of a country other than the US.

Don't really know, but I would guess that the nationality of the boat probably doesn't have much to do with customs treatment, unless there is political tension between the countries involved.  As a US-flagged vessel, we have always been treated cordially and sometimes even deferentially. 

The main thing that determines how customs treats you is your attitude in the customs office.  Time and again, we have seen travelers be impatient or arrogant or insulting.  What could they possibly be thinking?  One hundred percent of the time, that kind of behavior gets them nothing but hassle -- that is, customs will have an "emergency" and keep them stewing in the office all day (while the officials go have a long lunch and clear everybody else in first); or they'll go out and search the boat (something that rarely happens under normal circumstances); or they'll accidentally lose all the paperwork and make them start over, or . . . you get the idea.  

Here are the rules for clearing customs quickly and easily: (1) show respect by wearing decent clothes -- preferably long pants and a proper shirt; (2) be relaxed and use polite forms of address; (3) never act like you're in a hurry; (4) don't be chatty or overly familiar, either.  It's almost an art form.  :-)  My view is that it's their country, and they can do whatever the heck they want to do.  It's my job -- corny as this sounds -- to represent my country and cruisers in general by being respectful and civil.  And most of the time, officials behave in a professional, respectful manner in return.  (Except for Fiji, where they asked for t-shirts and beer!)

Q:  How do you go about arranging/reserving a docking berth in a port that you plan to visit?

A:  Most marinas have websites these days, and it is usually possible to find an Internet Cafe in any locality that has electricity.  If it is critical for you to have a detailed advance plan, head for an Internet Cafe, search for "marina" and the location, and I'll bet you come up with an email address for reservations.

Normally, though, we just show up and hope for the best.  It is often impossible to know where you want to be and when you can get there until you actually arrive.  (Hmmmm.)

And for us, unless there is a pressing reason to be at the dock, we'd rather anchor out anyway.

Q:  My wife and I dream of sailing around the world ourselves someday. We are both 45 years old. I have so many questions. Do you mind a few? How long did it take you to plan? How long did it take to build/equip/modify the boat? I have just read about the boat and it sounds like a peach. My question is, were you both independently wealthy? <grin>. I have been doing a little research here and there. Looking at boats, getting prices, etc. So I have an idea of what things cost. Thanks so much for your time. Hope to hear from you.

A:  As to our planning process, I have to say it started really early.  When we got married in 1984, we opened a savings account and named it "Sailing Savings," and we started keeping notes from magazines and boat shows.  But that was mainly dreaming, and the savings account did not grow significantly for a long time. 
The real planning and saving started about 5 years before we actually left.  We reduced our lifestyle drastically and started socking away 40% of every single dollar we took home.  No, we're CERTAINLY not independently wealthy -- we're just pretty good at being cheap.  :-)  It's quite possible to save enough to go, without depending on a windfall of any sort.  If you figure you will spend exactly the same as on land (and you probably will -- we do, just for different categories of things -- see one of the later questions in this section), then being able to reduce your land-lifestyle to 60% of what it was and saving 40% of your take-home pay for 6 years will give you more than 4 years of voyaging (after interest is calculated on the savings) at the same comfort level you had on land before you left.  Of course, if you find you can't reduce your land lifestyle to less than 70% or 80% of what it is now, then it will just take a little longer to save up to go.  Unless, of course, you can figure out a way to make extra money!
These figures do not include, however, a down payment for your boat and the original equipping of it.  We sold our house and cars to get that money, and it worked out almost to the penny.
From the time we agreed to build the boat until it was completely ready to go took about 20 months.  But that included the actual design phase and mold-building, etc., because the Hylas 54 had never been built at the time.  From the time we quit our jobs and moved aboard the boat, it was exactly 3 months before we were totally equipped and ready to leave.  I emphasize that we both worked very full days all day every day to get it done in that time. 
My best guess is that if you plan to order a new boat, the normal time from ordering until departing would be about 12-14 months.  If you get a used boat already in the water, you can be ready to go in 6 months, possibly less depending on the boat's condition.  For example, whoever buys Heartsong III when we get back (if we decide to sell her) would just have to bring their toothbrush and they could head out that day!  We looked very hard before we ordered this boat for one that had been bought new for a circumnavigation and had just completed it in 4-6 years.  We couldn't find one, but I still really think that's probably the easiest way to go.
One more comment on cost.  The bigger the boat you get, the more expensive EVERYTHING will be -- winches, sails, rig, marina slips, auto-pilot parts, repairs, haul-outs, anchors, bottom paint -- EVERYTHING.  The trick is to reach a balance of what boat is the exact right size to accommodate both your needs and your budget.  The more I think about it, boat size may well be the most important factor in the whole budgeting equation.  The serious long-term cruisers we have met generally have boats in the 38ft to 60ft range, with 42-46ft being by far the most popular and cost-effective.
So anyway, good luck to you both.  The final thing I would say is wait long enough to be able to afford to go safely and reasonably comfortably, but don't wait until late retirement age if you can help it.  Voyaging is physically demanding, and in another 15 or 20 years, unless I miraculously got into much better shape, I'm not sure whether I could manage it or not.

Q:  What, if anything, do you miss from back home? (Family, friends, TV, movies, politics?)

Yep.  Also bubble baths and Mexican food.  Wouldn't trade it, though.

Q:  How did you learn to sail in Dallas? I know there are lakes, but how does that compare to the blue water sailing you are now doing?

A:  Alan and I had both sailed on Texas lakes since we were teenagers, but mainly on small catamarans and sunfish.  It was excellent experience in the basics of sailing and boat-handling, but certainly not enough in itself to prepare for a circumnavigation on a large, complicated cruising yacht.  (Voyagers we know who kept their actual cruising boats on a very large Texas lake before beginning their trips would, of course, have had a different level of experience.)  Everything from maintenance to navigation to steering in rough seas to predicting weather, and so on, is very much different.

So in our case, we mainly learned to sail and voyage elsewhere.  Before we were married, Alan crewed across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic with two Air Force buddies in a 30-foot wooden boat with hand-tiller-steering;* and I crewed occasionally on daysails out of Marina del Ray when I was living in Los Angeles.  After we got married in 1984, we chartered in the Caribbean and in Greece; and then we bought a boat and put it in charter in the Virgin Islands, where we spent our vacations sailing it for two or three weeks every year for a decade.  Over the past 20 years, we have both taken several multi-day formal sailing courses, along with seminars in navigation and weather.  Before we left on this trip, we both took a preparatory course for the US Coast Guard captain's exam and got our licenses (not because we needed to have the captain's licenses, but to make sure that we knew everything a person captaining an ocean-going boat would be expected to know).  I also took a week-long course and Coast Guard exam in radar operation; we both took two weekend courses in diesel engine maintenance and repair; and Alan attended "Cool School," a short course in marine refrigeration.

As I write this down, I realize that we did a lot of preparation for this trip and had a fair amount of sailing experience.  Despite that, however, I think we learned most of what we now know after we departed.

* Alan likes to say that it took Christopher Columbus 26 days to cross the Atlantic, and it took Alan 30.

Q:  What do you do for money? Bank affiliations, travelers' checks or what?

We keep a "spending" fund and an "emergency" fund in American Express traveler's checks on the boat, and a small amount of American dollars.  We use our credit cards whenever we can (but the down side to that is a 1% to 3% handling surcharge tacked on to the exchange rate for foreign expenditures, depending on the card).  Our fixed expenses (boat payment, insurance) and a monthly check to the credit card companies are on auto-pay from our American checking account through a company called "Checkfree," and I can adjust the amounts via the Internet when I need to.  For pocket money, we'll exchange a traveler's check or two when we arrive in a new country.  If we plan to be in one country for a relatively long time, we open a checking account there and get a local ATM card and credit card.  To fund the local account, we have money wired from our checking account in the States.  I manage our investment portfolio over the Internet.

Here is a sort of checklist of money-related issues to consider before you leave home:

bulletWiring:  You usually have to pre-arrange and sign papers with your bank so that you can phone or email them to arrange a wire transfer.  It's good to establish personal contact so you can direct future requests -- which might be of an emergency nature -- to a person who knows that you live on a boat and have limited communication capability.
bulletCredit cards:  Shop around for credit cards -- visa and mastercard being the most widely accepted in the places we have gone so far.  What you want is a credit card with the least amount of "exchange" surcharge for foreign-currency transactions..
bulletNotification service:  Sign up for a notification service where you can cancel and replace all your cards with one call -- phone time will be elusive and precious in third-world countries.
bulletInternet:  We became totally Internet-based, and it has really paid off.  Set up your credit card accounts for Internet monitoring and payment.  Set up your investment accounts (we use Schwab) for Internet monitoring and trading.  It's good to practice administering all those accounts via the Internet for several months before you leave, while you still have a convenient phone line and access to 800-numbers for help.  (800-number help lines are not free when you dial from outside the USA).
bulletMoney management: I installed a money-handling software package called Quicken on our laptop.  It's good to do the tutorial and become expert at using it while you still have 800-number access.  This stuff will take you many hours to set up, but it will save you many days of cruising time.  Quicken pays our bills automatically, via a phone line, and it helps keep us on budget -- a far more important task when one is unemployed.

There's probably a lot more stuff that would be good to do, but that's all I can think of off the top of my head.

Q:  Do you plan to go back to work or are you "done" ?

A:  When we complete our circumnavigation, we will resume land-life and go back to our careers in law and medicine.  We have a few concerns about it, such as will I become an insomniac in a bed that doesn't move?  Will Alan walk out naked into the front yard to look around when the wind changes in the middle of the night?  Will anyone hire us after such a long gap in our respective resumes?  Will we care if they won't?

We were recently cheered by the example of our good Australian friends Don and Robyn of Stylopora, who completed their circumnavigation in Cairnes last year and have slotted back into civilization with no ill effects or catastrophic career penalties, albeit with the revised lifestyle priorities one would expect after 10 years of voyaging.

Q:  I have heard of "onion boats" that go between the ABC Islands but can't find anything about them?  Do they exist?  Do they carry passengers?  How Much?

A:  Sorry, we've never heard of them.

Q:  Do you have a "must see" and "don't bother" list for the South Pacific?

A:  You can't go wrong anywhere in the South Pacific.  If the outdoor activities don't appeal to you, the cultural aspects will.  Any place not listed as a "don't miss" we merely absolutely loved a lot, as opposed to really absolutely loved a lot.

But here are my opinions, for what they're worth.  For divers, don't miss Niue, Vanuatu, the Tuamotus, or the Ha'apai Group of Tonga.  Tahiti is urban and crowded (no particularly nice beaches or watersports) but is a "must see" during the June-July cultural festivals.  For awe-inspiring scenic beauty, do not miss Moorea (Society Islands), Fatu Hiva (Marquesas Islands), or the Yasawa Islands (Fiji).  If you are looking for a traditional island village experience, I'd recommend any of the outer islands in Vanuatu, or any of Fiji's non-resort islands and lagoons.

Tongatapu, at the very southern tip of the Tonga chain, is an excellent jumping-off point for New Zealand, but you would probably not want to schedule much more time there than you need for passage preparation (however, if there don't miss the Cultural Center and be sure to attend the king's church to hear the amazing singing).  By the same token, unless you need repair work or have city business, don't bother anchoring for any length of time in Suva, Fiji.  In fact, I'd recommend entering Fiji at either Savu-Savu or Lautoka, and giving the Suva area a miss entirely -- the weather is terrible most of the time.

Do not under any circumstances miss New Zealand.  It is the hands-down highlight of our trip so far.  Plan enough time to land-travel, especially in the South Island.

If you are trying to decide where to bareboat charter in the South Pacific, I recommend the northern Vava'u Group of Tonga (Moorings Yacht Charters in Neiafu).  Gorgeous secluded anchorages are within short (occasionally challenging) daysails of each other, and there are great snorkeling, diving, shelling, and gunkholing spots.  If, however, you like chartering in a more upscale area with nice resorts, posh restaurants, recreational rentals, etc., in addition to the usual secluded beaches and pretty anchorages, you would definitely prefer Australia's Whitsunday Islands (charter out of Hamilton Island Marina or on the mainland at Airlie Beach).  

I don't recommend chartering in Fiji because of the nerve-wracking reef navigation required; and I don't particularly recommend chartering in the Society Islands (Tahiti) because most of the islands are so far apart.  There did not appear to be any bareboat charter companies in New Zealand -- probably because everyone there has their own boat!

By the way, these bareboat recommendations are limited to the South Pacific.  In the Caribbean and Med, there are many additional great charter locations.

Q:  What do you use to clean the stainless steel on your deck?  Flitz?

A:  No, I use Metal Wax (#850), by Collinite (available from a company called Wax Bytes at 409-265-7790).  Thank you to Sally on Ti Amo for introducing me to this wonderful product.  It has literally doubled the time period our stainless is rust-free between polishings.

Q:  How has the Selden Furling Mast worked out? Any troubles?

A:  The Selden in-mast furling system has performed flawlessly in every sea and weather condition we have experienced in 18,000 blue-water miles, and we LOVE it.  

I see the furling main not merely as a convenience (which it certainly is) but as a safety feature for short-handed passagemakers.  On watch alone, either one of us can reduce sail unassisted without having to leave the cockpit and slide around on deck.  Each of us can sleep uninterrupted through the night and be fresh and strong for our own watch. 

We initially had concerns about a furling main: (!) What about all that weight in the mast, so high up from the deck?  (2)  What if it fails in the unfurled position in high winds?  (3) Won't it ruin the enjoyment of sailing if we just have to push a button to set, reduce, and increase the mainsail?  (4)  Won't we lose a knot of speed with a furling main as opposed to a fully-battened main?

Here are our answers.  As to (1), the only time it is an issue is when the main is fully furled and the boat is underway -- a very rare situation indeed.  As to (2), everyone said the same thing about furling jibs at first, and now they are the cruising standard.  We went with a good, highly reputable system; we service and maintain the system on a regular basis; and it hasn't let us down yet (knock wood).  In case the furling motor fails, there is a manual override.  As to (3), nope.  For (4), I think that voyagers  who are truly racers at heart may not enjoy the furling main.  For everyone else, it is a viable option.  We certainly haven't missed that theoretical extra knot.

One important note:  We use Hood Vectran sails, as opposed to Dacron sails.  The Vectran sails, though as strong as Dacron, are thinner; therefore, they furl more easily and tightly.  We know of another boat that has had trouble with Dacron sails in their in-mast furling, because the sail was relatively bulky.

When we were deciding whether to order the furling mast, Dick Jachney of Hylas Yachts told us that we would be sending him a thank-you postcard from the South Pacific for having talked us into it.  And he was right.  Consider yourself duly thanked, Dick!  And a special thank you to Barbara & David Potter of Selden, too, for their cheerful post-sales advice and spare parts shipment.

Q:  We have been closely following your passages and can see ourselves sailing those same seas someday.  The questions that have come up and continue to be unanswered involve finances. Without an idea in this department, it is only speculation whether such an undertaking for us is possible.  Those items at hand such as homes, cars, jobs, and debts are tangible, but what does it require financially to sail around the world for 4-5 years?  

Obviously this is a relative question depending on where one goes and for how long, but there are some fixed expenses to live and maintain the boat. For example: The average cost of food/month?  The estimated cost of maintenance/year?  Typical docking/mooring expenses?  Misc. travel expenses, i.e: cabs, hotel/motel, car/bike rental?  Health insurance policies? Added equipment for ocean passages/safety equipment?  These are only a few that come to mind, I am sure there are many more.  Can you offer us your advice and knowledge in preparing for such an adventure?

A:  Yes.  But first, here is another similar question on finances:

Q:  We (my wife & I) are in the middle of purchasing a S & S 47 in very good condition.  With the intention of extended cruising for the next 10 years or so.  I am trying to set up a budget.  Do you have a handle on how much it all costs?  With some sort of a breakdown?  Thanks for your help.  Hope to see you out there.

A:  You ask how much it costs to go voyaging?  There is only one true answer:   As much as you have.

Ultimately no matter how diligently you budget, you will take how much you have saved, divide it by how many years you think it will take to sail where you want to go -- and that's what you will spend.  We know people who probably spend upwards of US$150,000 per year.  On the other hand, it is quite possible for a couple who do their own maintenance to voyage safely and responsibly on $25,000 per year, assuming no major equipment failures and/or a good starting inventory of spares.  Like most cruisers, we fall somewhere in between those two extremes in any given year.

I'm sorry not to have a useful answer.  I made a diligent effort to quantify a generic budget for you, but it simply cannot be done.  In the area of maintenance and repair, it all depends on (1) how much you can do yourself, (2) what breaks, and (3) where you are when it breaks.  In other areas, too, one couple's budget is  useless to another.  Where one couple will save by never staying at a marina, another will save by having accumulated a zillion frequent-flyer miles to fly home for Christmas.  Where one couple likes to eat out and drink expensive wine, another will always eat in but spend big bucks on their SCUBA passion and video equipment.  Yet another couple will get all their entertainment from sailing and will almost never go ashore.  Still another enjoys a lot of sightseeing tours but sails without a watermaker or auto-pilot.  There are as many different valid ways to cruise as there are voyagers, and as many different budgets.

Still, here are some thoughts to help get a budget started from scratch:

1.  Have a look at what you spend now.  For every category of expense on land, there seems to be a different but equal expense voyaging.  Overall, we find that we spend pretty much the same now as we did when we lived on land.  For keeping track, I use Quicken software.

2.  As to budgeting for additional safety equipment for passages, the best thing to do is to get a copy of the West Marine or Defender catalog and price out what you need.

3.  Groceries are about 25% more expensive in the Caribbean and South Pacific islands than in the USA; but they are a lot cheaper in New Zealand and Australia.  Eating out averages out to be about half of what it cost us in Dallas -- in part because tipping is not customary in most of the countries we have visited.

4.  Diesel fuel has cost us an average of $1.20 per gallon from Florida to New Zealand, with the most expensive being in Florida ($1.34/gal) and the Bahamas ($1.46/gal).  Propane runs about 20 cents per gallon, plus any transportation costs (usually minimal) to get to filling locations.

5.  For boat insurance and health insurance, call several brokers and get quotes in advance for budgeting purposes.  They vary widely.  Some friends have saved by going with Canadian or New Zealand brokers.  Be sure to compile a "sailing resume," including all your experience and qualifications, and a list of safety equipment aboard the boat to send to a broker when requesting a quote.

6.  Do not underestimate the cost of charts and cruising guides, or the cost of shipping mail.  For us, it works out to be more than 1% of our entire budget for each.  For a chart budget, order catalogs from a supplier like Bluewater Books and Charts; list what you will need; and price it out.  It is possible to save by (1) ordering Xerox copies of DMA charts; and (2) by copying charts from other cruisers once you get out here (at the risk of getting a chart that hasn't been updated since Captain Cook sketched it).

7.  If you stay at a nice marina from time to time, plan on spending anything from 15 cents per foot per day (New Zealand) to $1 per foot per day (Aruba and downtown Sydney), including water and electricity.  Moorings can run from $2/night (Tonga) to $15/night (British Virgin Islands).  Most cruisers anchor out for free the vast majority of the time.

8.  With regard to clothing, you probably won't buy any (apart from replacing deck shoes), except as souvenirs.  No matter what our initial good intentions, cruisers tend to gravitate to "scruffy" as a fashion statement.  Basically, you could buy new clothes, but they'll just get ruined.

9.  Here is a list of our spending categories and the percentage of our total budget they represent, as averaged out over the first 2 years of cruising.  But as I said above, everyone prioritizes differently, and these figures may be completely irrelevant to your cruising lifestyle and what you will spend.

Expense Category Percentage of Total Expenses
Boat payment 27.4
Net income tax 10.9
Groceries & toiletries 7.5
Boat maintenance and repair 6.7
Boat insurance 6.3
Spare parts and supplies 4.2
Disability insurance 4.1
Professional liability insurance 3.6
Miscellaneous 3.6
Marinas & moorings 3.3
Restaurants 2.5
Health insurance 2
Additional boat equipment & installation 2
Sightseeing and land travel 1.8
Life Insurance  1.6
Mail 1.4
Health and dental care 1.4
Cruising guides and charts 1.3
Belowdecks (linens, laundry, cleaning products, galley gadgets) 1.3
Hobbies & sports (SCUBA, photography, etc.) 1.2
Fuel -- diesel and propane 0.9
Souvenirs & art 0.8
Personal property insurance 0.8
Airfare home 0.8
Customs & Immigration fees, canal fees 0.6
Long distance telephone 0.5
Internet 0.5
Personal (haircuts, massage therapy, etc.) 0.3
Clothing (non-souvenir) 0.2

Hope this has been of some help.  As a final note, let me just say that if you haven't saved enough to outfit your boat completely and comfortably up front, consider working another year or two to make it happen.  Although it is always risky to wait, it may well ruin the enjoyment of your entire voyage to depart prematurely.

Q:  I note that you maintain contact with the outside world through e-mail.  I wonder if it is possible to maintain e-mail and internet access from a boat and how such access is possible, either while in a harbor or at sea.  Also what methods of phone communications are available, if any, either in a harbor or while at sea?

A:  Excellent questions.  There have been some recent articles on this very issue in the sailing magazines, notably the March/April 2001 issue of Ocean Navigator.  But here are our thoughts.

At Sea

At sea, we use the following:

(1) SATCOM-C:  SATCOM-C has the best coverage right now of any system, and it is the most expensive.  Read more about this satellite-based system on our communications page and in a sidebar called "Our SATCOM-C" that I wrote for Blue Water Sailing magazine a while back.  SATCOM-C, also known as Inmarsat-C, requires a computer, Inmarsat-C hardware such as the Trimble Galaxy, , and registration with an Inmarsat service such as COMSAT or STRATOS.  The hardware will run you in the neighborhood of US$5,000, and messages then cost a penny per character (characters being letters, numbers, punctuation, etc., but not spaces).  There is no monthly fee; you pay strictly per usage.  This technology is old and slow and seems destined to be replaced eventually by wireless and/or satellite systems such as Orbcomm and Iridium.  In the meantime, though, the SATCOM-C system provides some free and very valuable services for mariners, notably 6-hourly localized weather and sea-state reports, hurricane and cyclone tracking, headline news, shipping reports, and instant distress signallling.  We love our SATCOM-C, despite its painfully awful software and slow speed, and we do not plan to replace it.

(2) Sailmail: Sailmail is a service that takes regular Internet email sent to you by others and transmits it over single-sideband (SSB) radio to your boat wherever you happen to be.  It then receives the email you send from the boat to Sailmail by SSB and delivers it to the addressee via the Internet.  The service requires a computer; an SSB radio, which most cruisers carry anyway; a TNC (terminal node controller), which acts as a modem between the SSB and your computer (about US$900); the free Sailmail software, which turns email that you write on your computer into a format that can be sent via radio; and a subscription to Sailmail (about $US200 per year).  The only downsides follow: messages must be text only -- no photos, graphics, or attachments; propagation is occasionally too bad to receive or send; the frequencies can be really busy at times.  Overall, though, we are happy with the system and use it regularly.

In Port

In harbour, we continue to use SATCOM-C and sailmail, especially for important messages that need to go out quickly or on islands with no phones or electricity.  In addition, we do the following, depending on where we are:

(1) Cities: Internet Cafes.  You can't beat Internet Cafes for cost-effective Internet access abroad, and they are in virtually every city in the world.  To collect and send email at an Internet Cafe, you need a webmail service such as Yahoo or Hotmail, both of which are free services. (They make their money by advertising to you constantly while you are reading your messages.)  Webmail services use their websites as clearinghouses for others to send and receive email.  When you sign up with these services on their sites, they give you a mailbox and an email address -- for example, username@yahoo.com.  You can then give that new address to your friends and family, or you can configure Yahoo or Hotmail to pick up messages sent to your old/usual address.  Instructions for this collection feature are on the webmail sites, usually under "options" or "other services" or "check other mail."  In other words, you don't need to change your old email address to be able to send and receive email on Yahoo or Hotmail at an Internet Cafe.  Many Internet Cafes will let you plug your laptop into either (a) their network; or (b) an unused phone line.  Plugging into their network is easiest.  You will need a basic network cable, but then your call is free, and there is no configuration you need to do on your laptop.  If you plug into an unused phone line, you will need either to (a) get them to tell you their dial-up number and configuration, username and password; or (b) use your own info, per the next paragraph.

(2) Remote Areas: Wheedling.  In remote areas, we carry our laptop ashore and keep asking until someone lets us plug it into a phone line somewhere.  We have the best luck with restaurants and shops that we patronize, or with bareboat charter offices.  Then we make an international phone call (on our credit card, of course) to our USA Internet service provider and proceed to "flashload" our messages.  In other words, we just upload what we've written, download our messages from home, and sign off instantly.  There is no Internet surfing with this method, because the international phone call is just too expensive.  To use this approach, you need a laptop with modem; about a thousand phone-plug adaptors because you never know what the system will be; and an Internet Service Provider somewhere.  To make the international call, you need an AT&T or other phone card.  If your service provider is AOL, they may have a local access number in the area; be sure to get a list of their international numbers before you leave.  If the country is developed enough to  have Internet service providers, it is usually less expensive to buy a month's time, per paragraph (5) below, rather than connect to your ISP back home.

(3) Remote Areas: Payphone Booths.  When all else fails, it is possible to do the "flashload" procedure from a phone booth.  To do so, you need a laptop with modem, and an accoustic coupler.  The coupler, which plugs into your computer, is a cradle for the phone booth's handset.  Coupler operation is not straightforward.  Let me know if you require details on this procedure.  In some places, notably Tahiti, the phone companies are beginning to put a modem plug-in on the sides of public phones for laptop connections.  Be sure to look for one before you go to the trouble of using the coupler.

(4) Really remote areas:  Many places we visit have no telephone or electricity.  In those places, we use Sailmail or SATCOM-C (above).

(5) Coastal Areas of Developed Countries.  In coastal areas of developed countries, it is often possible to connect your computer to the Internet via cellphone.  Your USA cellphone probably will not work; instead, you must buy a phone -- usually a pre-paid card-phone with no service contract -- in the country you are visiting.  Some areas, such as the UK, have a residency requirement for cellphone purchases, but such is not the case in New Zealand or Australia, for example.  All developed countries and most developing ones have local Internet service providers.  If you sign up with one temporarily while in that country, you can access the Internet with a local phone call, as opposed to an international one to your home provider.  Service for a month usually runs US$10-20 and is merely a matter of looking up the provider in the yellow pages and signing up.  Upon signing up, you will receive a mailbox and a new email address with the domain name of the local provider.  It is possible to configure your email software, such as Outlook Express, so that it will collect the mail from your normal email address and not require you to change your email address every time you change countries.  Let me know if you require details on this procedure.

Note written in October 2003: Some marinas now offer wireless broadband Internet access directly on your boat.  Consult the excellent company YachtConnect Ltd for more information on availability in the Mediterranean Sea.  I am also told similar services are now available in Mooloolaba, Australia, and in New Zealand.

Q:  Do you carry firearms?

A:  Yes, we do.  We have a Mossberg 12-gauge marine shotgun and a Remington 3006 rifle.  We declare them to customs upon arrival in each country.  Sometimes we get to keep them aboard in a locked, sealed cabinet during our stay, and sometimes the authorities keep them until we depart.  (N.B.: In New Zealand, cruisers should apply at any major police station for a "tourist license" that enables them to keep all firearms except handguns on board.  See our New Zealand port notes.) 

Besides normal ammunition, we carry some useful shotgun shells developed for farms and vineyards.  The shells explode in midair with maximum bang and minimum shrapnel.  Their utility is -- in the unlikely event of a piracy attempt, knock wood -- to fire warning shots while a suspicious vessel is still far enough away to think better of the attack.

Q:  Is there anything you would have done differently? The things you packed? The boat or some of the equipment?

A:  That's a tough one.  With regard to equipment, we have made two major modifications in New Zealand that, in hindsight, we would like to have had from the outset:  (1) a second radar unit in the cockpit, and (2) a second auto-pilot, available by switch if the first one fails or overheats.

In addition, I wish I had researched bottom paints more thoroughly (or at all).  The ones we have chosen so far have not been up to the task.

With regard to the things we packed, I would have brought far fewer clothes.  I'm embarrassed to tell you that we started out with Alan's tux and a cocktail dress for me, if you can believe it.  Now we feel dressed up if we wear shoes.

Note added in 2003: In Darwin, Australia, we got rid of our engine-driven refrigeration and installed 12V referigeration.  We kept our A/C (220V) system, so we still have two autonomous systems.  The 12V system is so much better than the engine-driven system that I wish we had had it from the beginning.  To use the old engine-driven system, we had to run the main engine at 1800 rpm or less, or else the refrigeration mechanism would be overloaded.  At that rpm, the boat motors at only 4-5 knots.  So if we were motoring, we had to slow way down to run the fridge; and if we were sailing, we had to run the engine at a low rpm without enough "load" -- not good for the engine at all.  Or else, as we usually did, we simply ignored the engine-driven system, turned on the genset, and used the 220V system to run the fridge.  And -- here's the even more crucial point -- we could not ever leave the boat for more than a day with anything in the fridge because both systems required us to be on board to run them.  The 12V system is more reliable, less hard on the engine, and can be run from a remote for weeks.

Q:  Did you stop at Easter Island?

A:  No, darn it.  Easter Island, fascinating home of those giant stone prehistoric statues, is well south of the "coconut milk run" route that we followed across the Pacific.  It is known also for bays that can become turbulent and exposed with wind shifts and that are deeper than the norm for safe anchorage by most boats.  As a result, most voyagers don't go there (except by excursion plane from Tahiti!).  Maybe next trip.

Q:  I have a 60-foot motor yacht and would like to set up a cruising website similar to yours.  Would you give me some pointers on how to get started?

A:  Yep.  It's really, really easy -- but it does take a fair amount of time, particularly in getting set up initially.  You need the following:  

bulleta computer
bulletInternet access
bulletwebsite editing software, such as Microsoft Front Page or Netscape
bulleta digital camera; or both a regular camera and a scanner
bulletphoto-editing software, such as Adobe Photo Deluxe
bulleta web host, such as Verio or EZPublishing, which charges a monthly fee
bulleta domain name, which must be unique and which you must register and pay for
bulletaccess to a telephone line to send updates to the site

For writing and editing website content, I use Microsoft Front Page software.  The manual that comes with the software tell you everything you need to know about creating a small personal website and publishing it on the Internet.  I used to use Netscape, but Front Page is a little more comprehensive and, in my opinion anyway, a little more user-friendly.  It has its limitations, though.  For example, you must use your own computer to send updates, whereas with Netscape and some other editors you can put your updates on diskette and send them off from an Internet Cafe.

For photos, I have a Fujifilm digital camera and Adobe PhotoDeluxe software.  Alternatively, you can use regular snapshots and put them on the computer by scanner.  We do a little of both.  For video, I use a terrific Sony PC-100 digital video camera, and I edit with Pinnacle Studio DV video linear editing software.

For web hosting, I use Verio, which will also reserve and register a domain name for you.  You can choose your own domain name (ours is "heartsong3.com"), as long as it is not in use by someone else.  It can have either the ".com" or the ".net" extension, whichever you prefer.  If your heart is set on a domain name that is unavailable in the USA, try another country.  For example, in New Zealand we could have registered "heartsong3.co.nz." 

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