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
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
|(1) at sea, keeping pirates at a distance and preventing
them from boarding in large numbers; |
|(2) at anchor or dock, defending against individual
sneak-boarders; and |
|(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
(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
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
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?
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
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
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
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:
|Indian 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
|Cruising 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|
|Sail 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):
|$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.|
|$71 cruising permit, including copies and the government-tax
stamps you have to buy and attach|
|$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
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
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
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
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
want to spend several years cruising after retirement.
will not be able to devote the
time until I am 62 years old. Is
lifestyle too demanding for someone of that age?
My wife and I stay in
good shape and have no health problems.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
Alternatively, you can choose never to communicate with anybody at
Or you can choose to participate in SSB/HF radio "nets"
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.
always find out about nets just by asking other cruisers in an
anchorage. Somebody will know, or will know how to find out.
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.
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.
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?
would you recommend Concord Electronics, Summerfields boatyard and the canvas shop that you used
(can't remember the name offhand)?
First off, thanks for the kind words. Regarding specific vendor
recommendations, please have a look at Vendors We
Like for the Florida area.
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:
we added a couple of small pieces of equipment:
Commander" watch-keeping and singlehanding alarm system|
winch handle (to use with manual jib furler or other manual winches on
board when I'm too fatigued to crank)
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.
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
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.
any of this was helpful. Best of luck with your cruising. Keep
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
Thanks and be safe.
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.
are my picks for best chartering spots in the Caribbean:
Islands (CYC in St. Thomas or Moorings in Roadtown)|
(Moorings in Grenada)|
are my picks for best chartering spots in the Mediterranean
(Sunsail in Marmaris or Bodrum)|
(many independent boats; look in sailing mags for an agent)|
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.
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
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
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.
some countries -- notably Singapore -- levy a non-refundable customs fee
for mandatory gun storage that is roughly equal to the value of the gun
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 --
you might suffer some stress and loss of time and money in the process.
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.
unless you buy a "marinized" gun, it will rust unless you take
very good care of it.
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
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
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 --
decide to carry guns, I humbly submit some food for thought:
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
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!!)
- 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.
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
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.
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.
firing. Take your guns to a range and fire them many times
until you are comfortable with them
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
mandatory equipment for long-term bluewater cruising (in no particular
order) in my opinion:
(plus handheld spares)|
(interfaced with GPS)|
radio with DSC capability|
heavy-duty ground tackle, including an oversized primary anchor with
plenty of chain and an oversized electric windlass|
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|
equipment I wouldn't want to be without:
(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
alarm system, such as Watch Commander (Blinky)
and freezer (dual-powered: a/c and 12-volt)|
for SSB radio (for sailmail and weatherfax)|
band radios with hands-free vox|
(Man Overboard Module) or Lifesling|
that now I have them I don't know what I ever did without them
and C-Map charting on the radar unit|
or Iridium phone with data package|
conditioning (unless no tropical sailing planned)|
winches and/or an electric winch handle|
& printer for computer|
much money did you save prior to beginning your voyage?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
Hi, I was
wandering what are some things that preserves are doing to help the great
white sharks, and captive breeding programs. Thanks.
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
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.
a comment from a wanna-be / soon-to-be liveaboard cruiser: Please keep up the
website! I need it!
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
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!
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
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.
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).
Unfortunately, Borneo isn't on the route this time. Maybe next time
around! Thanks very much for the kind thoughts.
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?
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
|Tell the person
at the counter you need an Internet terminal.|
|Double click the
"Internet Explorer" icon (or it may be open already).|
"address" box, type http://www.yahoo.com.|
|When the Yahoo
home page comes up, click the email icon; then type in your username
|When 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
A: Nope. But maybe I can
convince you to think of a lot of ways to make it comfortable and safe
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.
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?
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!
What a way to live......9-5 just doesn't satisfy the human sprit ya
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
I mean for weather and tactical
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
Stuff like that.
Thanks in advance for your time
on these questions.
Best of luck to you ya!
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.
for number of days on passage, that info is posted on this site on the logbook
-- 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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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
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,
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
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):
bandages, various sizes|
ointments, alcohol prep pads, iodine|
|IV bags, needles,
tubes, and solution|
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
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
A: Sorry. Our purchase agreement with Hylas was expressly
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
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
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
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
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.
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
|(a) your tolerance for sometimes badly
laundered or mildewed clothes, towels, and bedsheets in places with a
laundry service but limited fresh water supplies; |
|(b) your tolerance for doing all the above laundry
in a bucket when there is no shore service at all; and |
| (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
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
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
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
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:
|Run all lines to the cockpit so one person on watch can do most
chores without risking going on deck alone.|
|If one or both partners are not as strong as a young-ish physically
install electric winches or get an electric winch handle.|
|Have 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|
|For 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
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.
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
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?
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?
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
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.
you encountered any problems when you leave the port (and have retrieved your
firearms) but are still planning to visit other islands in that
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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:
|Wiring: 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.|
|Credit 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
|Notification 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.|
|Internet: 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).|
|Money 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Still, here are some thoughts to help get a budget started
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
||Percentage of Total Expenses
|Net income tax
|Groceries & toiletries
|Boat maintenance and repair
|Spare parts and supplies
|Professional liability insurance
|Marinas & moorings
|Additional boat equipment & installation
|Sightseeing and land travel
|Health and dental care
|Cruising guides and charts
|Belowdecks (linens, laundry, cleaning
products, galley gadgets)
|Hobbies & sports (SCUBA, photography, etc.)
|Fuel -- diesel and propane
|Souvenirs & art
|Personal property insurance
|Customs & Immigration fees,
|Long distance telephone
|Personal (haircuts, massage
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, 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
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
(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 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, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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
(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
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
|website editing software, such as Microsoft Front Page or Netscape|
|a digital camera; or both a regular camera and a scanner|
|photo-editing software, such as Adobe Photo Deluxe|
|a web host, such as Verio or EZPublishing, which charges a monthly fee|
|a domain name, which must be unique and which you must
register and pay for|
|access 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
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
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