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January 2013

An Unplanned Row - or Two - or Three

I’ve been rowing dinghy again, but not intentionally. It’s often been too windy and rough for a comfortable row. Both of us worked early in January -- EW for his cousin Jeff, at Carpentry Plus, and I for a conference at the Marriott -- so we were using a lot more gas due to the commutes. I would bound out of bed (sort of) with EW at five-Oh-Darn-forty-five (not to be confused with Oh-Dark-Thirty), and deliver him to Crown Bay Marina to meet Jeff. Later, I'd scoot in for my work commute, involving dinghy, dollar bus, and ferry. Around five, EW arrived at the dock, took the dinghy back to the boat, and would motor in to pick me up later in the evening.

You know where this is going, right?

I didn’t have to work on one Thursday, so I planned to write and clean in the morning, and to go in at three to run a few errands before EW returned. I’ve been doing a lot of walking and standing and lifting at work, and didn’t feel like a walk. It was breezy and the seas were too bumpy for yoga on the boat, and definitely would be too bumpy for rowing – at least in one direction. These were my excuses for not planning on exercising that Thursday morning. The universe disagreed.

You do know where this is going, right?

Yep. Early on that fateful day, I started the dinghy motor, EW and his back-pack popped down from the deck of La Luna,  and we booked for shore. It was a bouncy, wet, uneventful ride --  until the motor died just as we passed the entrance to the ferry dock at Water Island. EW said a bad word. Shame. He shipped the oars and started rowing into the wind and waves, making very little headway – precisely why I hadn’t rowed that morning. In the meantime, my mind was going a mile a minute regarding today’s “schedule”, my lack of footwear, and my lack of wallet. Looks like I’d have to hang around for an hour in the dinghy, waiting for the fuel dock to open, and beg Heidi in the office to let me come back and pay for the fuel.

EW continued to row, making little headway against the wind and waves. “Where are all those people who try to rescue you?” he asked rather plaintively. “I think we’re too early for the,” I replied, and then an idea occurred to me. First, I tried to flag down a dinghy that was heading toward Crown Bay from the other end of the anchorage, but he didn’t see us. Then, I saw the ferry coming from Water Island. “Flag it down,” I said. “You can get on and I’ll row back to the boat. We have gas there. I’ll purchase more when I go in to run errands.” EW looked at me, “Are you sure?” “No problem. The wind and waves will be working with me and I usually row farther than that.” So he did and we did. But the ferry captain was dubious. I had to assure him that this was “my choice”, and “my idea”. Then I rowed home. Evidently I’ve successfully indoctrinated the regular commuters because, while all looked over and waved, none of them stopped to see if I needed help. One newbie swung my way, but I waved him off before he got too far off course. I am boat woman.

PC070077Faithful readers will remember an earlier more embarrassing moment dingy moment from our last visit to St. Thomas. "Dingbat in a Dinghy"  If you don’t want to take time to read the older post – the spoiler is that I left La Luna in our old dinghy without oars and without the gas tank. It seems the motor will run a bit, just enough to leave me adrift among the mooring balls.  Of course, the first folks to get close were a young lady and a sailing curmudgeon. “Humph. Ran out of gas, did you?” “Er, yes,” I replied, praying he wouldn’t actually discover I didn’t even have a fuel tank. He was in a hurry, but did agree to tow me back to La Luna. When we got close I hailed EW, who came on deck to receive my line and knew immediately that the tank destined for Lunah Landah’s  stern, was still on La Luna’s deck. I remain grateful that he didn’t expose my stupidity to my surly rescuer.

P5200570Last spring we visited St. Maartin. One day, EW set aside time to run around the lagoon collecting parts for his home-made underwater breathing apparatus. Lord only knows why I offered to join him. The jaunt consisted of going to one side of the harbor to a dive shop, over to the other side to a machine shop, back to the dive shop, a detour to a marine store, and back to the machine shop -- all via dinghy. That’s the harbor at right. We covered all of it, many times. Just as we neared the dock for the second machine shop visit, we ran out of gas. Somehow EW talked me into dropping him off (“Before they close!”) and then rowing to the gas dock. I had many offers of tows, but maintained my martyred dignity and rowed up to the very tall fuel dock.

The last part of this admittedly short journey was punctuated by encouragement from the local man working at the pumps. “You’re almost here, man!  You can do it!” He grabbed the line, tied it off, and handed down the nozzle. I carefully filled the tank, just as carefully handed the nozzle back up to him, and paid him. Then, I tried to start the motor. It wouldn’t start. I checked to make sure that the little red key thing that’s not a key was holding the kill switch. It was. I tried again. “Did you squeeze de ball?” the attendant asked, in his island lilt. “You have to squeeze de black ball until it’s hard.” Forgive me, the whole thing struck me as ludicrous, and I regressed 40 years. It got worse the more he insisted, more than once, “You haven’t squeezed the ball enough. De black ball has to be hard.” So there I am, a fifty-umpth-year-old, white blond, giggling like a seventh grader. Or suppressing the giggles as successfully as seventh grade girls do -- yeah, not so much. Ultimately, my young friend jumped into the dinghy and squeezed “de ball until it was hard” enough, and then started the engine. I tipped him well, and took myself and my giggles back to wait for EW on the other dock.

My three lessons:

1. Dinghy fuel. Don’t leave home without it.

2.  Here’s a clue - -if you don’t have a fuel tank, you probably don’t have much fuel. Just sayin’.

3. Finally, if you do run out of fuel, you mus’ squeeze de black ball until it’s very hard.


So, You Want to Go Cruising? Part Three -- The Lifestyle

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Still with me? Here’s the final post in this three-part blog-tome on the cruising lifestyle. Again, these are my opinions, and comments, discussions, disagreements, and corrections are welcome. For the purposes of this simple post, the lifestyle questions can be broken down into five categories:

P41900191. Night watches. What if I’m terrified to stand watch alone? I get that. Standing watch at night is pretty cool actually -- tiring until you get used to it, but cool. Just so you know, we started out in 2010 with a three on/three off schedule. At the suggestion of Marita and Ted from s/v Aurora, we now have six hour watches at night. I’m not sure I would have started out like that, but like it now. Night watches are 6:00 PM to Midnight, and from Midnight to 6:00 AM. During the day we have three four-hour watches, so each day one of us has an extra four hours off for “projects” – like cooking hot meals. We get more sleep – especially if we have to be roused during a night watch for a sail change or something. It’s much easier to go back to sleep if you know you’ve got two and a half hours left to slumber and not just thirty minutes.

Now then, back to the question. We had done overnight sailing along the coast of Maine in our 26-foot boat – and that was with paper charts and a Loran for navigation. Now we have radar, an electronic chart plotter, GPS, and (soon) AIS. For long trips I like to prepare a number of meals, freeze them in vacuum bags, and boil them up in a pot of water. Easy-peasy. Use the water to wash the dishes, no muss, no fuss, and more sleep for me. As mentioned in Part One, many cruisers take “crew”, whether a parent, brother, friend, or paid captain, for long passages. Friends of ours from Maine sailed to the Med alone, but had EW join them in the Canary Islands when they returned to the Caribbean. We be-bopped down the US coast from Maine to Florida, generally in 2-4 day hops, and then sailed across to Bimini in under 12 hours on Christmas Day 2010. One can mostly day-hop in the Bahamas and Caribbean, though some 2-3 day passages may arise. As much as I hate his tone, we did get a lot of good information on heading east from Bruce Van Sant's The Thornless Path. One of you should read it, if you’re sailing from the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic and east to the Caribbean.

P12501812. Boat Maintenance. What do you do if things break? You fix them. Fix early and fix often. It’s really true that being a cruising sailor allows you to fix your boat in all the beautiful anchorages of the world. We’ve heard and said that so much that it’s a cliché, but it’s still true. As I write this, EW is working in the shower, a project that has lasted for 5-6 weeks. Oh joy. There will be a blog post about this one, but here is a photo of EW taping prior to caulking. Note the newly fiber-glassed shower stall. A teak grate sits on top of this. He “only” has to install the drain and sump pump. Someday, I’ll have a shower. This brings up a sub-category in this topic: Parts. Dora mentioned in a comment for the first post, that you can’t have too many tools. I’ll state that you can’t have too many parts, either. I wandered into the master stateroom the other day and saw a new box with a brand new shower sump. “Where’d you get this?” I asked. EW replied, “I’ve had that since before we left Maine.” Two and a half years later, we need it and he’s installing it. I love EW.

And one more sub-category under Maintenance: Labor.  If you don’t want to spend huge amounts of money on hired labor; waste days, weeks, or months waiting for someone who can work on said part; or rely on the kindness of sailing strangers for help – at least one of you must be able to fix, or at least trouble-shoot, most things on the boat. There is no waffling on this. One of you has to be able to tackle boat stuff. If not, stick to well-populated locations with nearby marinas. Cruising is about travel, views and vistas, anchoring in secluded harbors, sunsets, making new friends, drinking rum, and fixing things. Not necessarily in that order.

P12301483. What do you DO all day? See above. Many of the captains and first mates also take up a hobby or craft, or enjoy one they did back home. Vicky on s/v Fox Sea quilts on board. Diana on One White Tree brought her knitting with her. She’s since turned to basket making and beading, as Ross isn't wearing wool socks down here. Go figure. A number of cruising first mates create art and items they can sell, jewelry, carvings, paintings, stained glass, and other things. EW plays music, and I write. We both read. We swim, snorkel, hike, learn local foods and customs, meet local folks and sailors, exercise, play cards and dominoes, clean, tackle boat projects, correspond with folks back home on Facebook and email, shop for groceries, do laundry, clean, tackle boat projects, read, watch movies, cook, clean, tackle boat projects. You get the idea.

OH! And we do sail. Of course we sail -- but not as much as you might think.

4. So, you two must really get on to live on a boat and be together all the time. How’s that work? Just fine, although it was a bit rough at times the first year. That’s what my book, Harts at Sea -- Sailing to Windward is about, the learning curve for this lifestyle and our forced togetherness. A sense of humor helps. We’ve worked through some issues and simply let others go. We’ve been married for 27 years, so you know there are issues. Still, I love getting into our bed and curling up next to his right side, falling asleep all wrapped up together. It was too hot for that in Grenada and Trinidad, so I’m enjoying the cooler temperatures in St. Thomas very much, thank you. I love listening to EW practice his guitar, and am delighted that he’s found friends and mentors for his music. His enjoyment performing and playing in music jams tickles me, and I'm proud to be is Band-Aide. EW is very proud of my writing, brags about me, and edits each blog post. He cheerfully poses for photos, informing me when it’s time to take a new photo showing the progress of the current project, and he smiles in resignation when I find humor in his daily life – and share that with the world.  I love EW.

Deshaies from bay 2 5-29-2012 4-23-15 PM5. Travel. What is your favorite island? For me, Guadeloupe. I love Guadeloupe. I speak no French, and we had some communication challenges, but I simply love Guadeloupe. In 2011, we left Antigua and sailed down to Deshaies, arriving well before dark. We pulled in to this harbor with it’s brightly painted town, and my heart stilled. This is what I imagined a Caribbean harbor town to look like. “This is it,” I said. We’re leaving the Caribbean for a while, but we’ll be back, and I plan to spend a number of weeks in Guadeloupe, visiting the places we love and spending time visiting other harbors there, as well. Having said that, we love spending hurricane season in Grenada. The people there make it for us – both the cruising sailors and the locals. We love the hikes, the activities, the fishing, snorkeling, and anchorages – and the people, always the people. By the way, EW says that Grenada is his favorite island.

This post hasn’t touched on provisioning, cooking and recipes, getting parts, parties and dinners aboard, Facebookshipping parts to our location, getting mail, water, fuel, and more parts. All of those things were both easier and more difficult than we thought they’d be – but we knew they were part of this lifestyle, and I wasn’t really surprised by any of it. If someone were to ask me what surprised me most about cruising in the Caribbean – I’d have to say Facebook.

I didn’t do much with Facebook while in Maine, but it’s a vital form of communication in the Caribbean Cruising Community. There are Facebook Users Groups for Grenada, Trinidad, St. Thomas, the Coconut Telegraph, and others. We share weather, information about harbors and parts, let friends know we’re heading their way, announce get-togethers and potlucks, and our eminent arrivals or departures to and from our home countries. In addition, it’s been invaluable to me as a way to keep current with family and close friends back home. Once again, I am in awe of all of those cruisers who set sail 20 to 50 years ago, without all of the communication and safety gear we have – not to mention refrigeration. They are my heroes. I’ll take this lifestyle now, thank you – with AIS, SSB Radios, Weather Faxes, Radar, and -- in port, the Internet, Facebook, and SKYPE. Join me on Twitter @BarbatSea – and on Facebook – see above.

Life is good. This lifestyle is fantastic – for us. Do you think you’d like it? Join us. We look forward to meeting you in our favorite harbors.PB170321

PHOTOS, top to bottom:  1.La Luna on the mooring in Harpswell, Maine, May 2010. 2. Dawn after my night watch, somewhere in the Bahamas. 3. EW and the Shower Job. 4. EW and Tony from s/v Ragin’ Cajun, at Tickles on Open Mic night. 5. Deshaies, Guadeloupe. 6. My Facebook Page – obviously. 7. La Luna on the hook in St. Thomas.


So, You Want to Go Cruising? Part Two–Financials

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If you missed it, Part One of this series focused on the decisions one makes before going cruising: Whether to go, how to choose a boat, what experience you need, and that sort of thing. This is not meant to be an all-knowing, all-inclusive list. These are simply my answers to the questions we’ve received lately from folks who want to go cruising. I assure you, other cruisers – and EW – will have different responses to some of these questions. Let them get their own blog.  BUT – comments and discussions are welcomed here. Have at it!

Now then, on with the show …

1-Four on the bus 6-25-2012 6-07-10 PMHow much does cruising cost? How much do you have? I’m only being a little facetious here. EW and I are on a limited budget, but other folks cruise with less. How important is cruising and what will you give up or forego? We don’t rent cars. We very rarely stay in a slip. We only rent moorings when there are no other options due to safety or when we want to stay in marine preserves. We have not gone back to mainland US since we left Florida in December of 2010. We chose to leave during a down economy, knowing that if we stayed to achieve a more nearly perfect financial picture, we’d likely be too old to cruise. (Or one of us would be, EW is 10 years older than I am. Did you hear bout his “age related counseling? I still get a chuckle out of that.) Some folks do 90% of the repairs and maintenance on their boats, others have boatyards do all their work. Again, I refer you to Beth Leonard’s book, The Voyager Handbook. She has an outstanding breakdown of the costs using three different fictional couples with three different budgets. I don’t think she missed a thing.

Can you earn money out here? Yes, but it ain’t easy. We are planning a longer, more expensive trip and needed to add to the cruising kitty, so we decided to spend the winter in St. Thomas where we can legally work. All of the Caribbean islands frown on non-locals getting jobs, though in some places you can pay for a work permit, and for some skills it’s worth it. We know Dutch sailors who are staying in St. Maartin so they can work, sailors from France who are in Sainte Martin or Guadeloupe for the season, and a whole lot of folks from the States who have been living aboard and working full time on St. Thomas for a year or ten.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that a woman we met in Grenada now has a full-time job working for her former company. She puts 40 hours a week on the computer. A cruising family from Wales is largely funded by the wife’s continued work as a freelance medical writer. She maintains her clients, fulfills assignments, and gets paid, just as she did back home. EW was a well respected yacht broker in Maine, and  has acted as a buyers’ broker for folks looking to follow in our lifestyle, helping them to choose the right boat, and acting as their agent. He has maintained his business checking and escrow accounts for that reason. I’m starting to consistently make money with my writing, am considering monetizing this blog, and am mulling over two new books. All of that will supplement EW’s retirement, allowing us more flexibility in our travels. Other cruisers have spent considerable time and expense to get their boats ready for chartering. Most go whole hog and charter through brokers, attending at least one charter show each season. A few charter on a smaller scale through their own website. When it works, 8-12 weeks of chartering can provide an excellent supplement to the cruising kitty. I do not want to charter. Thank goodness EW doesn’t either. Whew.

Tickles jamFinally, it’s good to remember that you can’t fail at this. You try a new lifestyle, if it works you keep going, if it doesn’t, stop for a while or go back to a different lifestyle. Beth Leonard’s more recent articles have been about the transition to life on land. A couple from Australia, who are able to work in the States said that the best decision they made was to stop cruising for two years to return to South Carolina to work. Not only did they fill the cruising kitty and reduce stress, but they also discovered the place they want to retire to after cruising. There is no shame in changing course. A younger couple we met cruised for just under a year and decided to make a change because he just couldn’t get into the lifestyle. I’m sure the decision was preceded by angst filled conversations, but the result is fantastic. She has accepted a position with an NGO, and they will move half way around the world. I’m not sure whether they would have considered such a move had they not already altered their life to go cruising.

Two of our closest cruising friends have opted to take a few years back in the states working real jobs while living on the dock in Boston. While I don’t envy them for the winters, that isn’t a bad place to be at all. They’ll fill the coffers, improve their boat, and set sail for Europe on schedule. Fatty and Caroline Goodlander have sailed for years, circumnavigating and raising a daughter aboard. Fatty’s most recent book, Buy, Outfit, Sail: How To Inexpensively and Safely Buy, Outfit, and Sail a Small Vessel Around the World describes how to start cruising on a shoestring. There are lessons in that book for all of us.

So, how much does it cost? How much do you have? If this is your dream, go for it.

This lifestyle expands your horizons … and your thinking. My dear friend Rhoda would be the first to say that’s a good thing – and that the resources will be available to us if we’re clear about what we want. We have never regretted cutting the lines and setting sail – even if we didn’t have all of our financial ducks in a row.

Photos, top to bottom: Anchorage in Clarks Court Bay, Grenada; After the Death March Hike with guests Stu and Cathy Klein, also in Grenada; and EW, Peter Bonta and the Tim West Band at Open Mic Night at Tickles. This is about love, not money.

BOOK!  Did you catch that I have a book out now? Harts at Sea, Sailing to Windward is available at Amaon.com in both Kindle and print formats. Check it out.


So, You Want to Go Cruising? Part One–Decisions

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Lately, folks who wish to follow in our wake have asked advice about boats, cost, homes, and this lifestyle. Many of the questions are the same, but some are unique to each cruising couple. Some of our fellow cruisers may have answers similar to mine, some of them – and EW – may disagree with one or two of my statements. Please comment, disagree, agree, and start a discussion. What do you think, and/or what questions do you have?

In no particular order, here are answers to the most asked questions:

Will you talk my wife/husband/significant other into this? Not for a million dollars. This truly only works well if both parties are eager to embrace this lifestyle. I’ve met cruising spouses who have very reluctantly agreed to join in their loved one’s dream. In every case I’ve met, either the dream or the marriage are cut short.

The exception to that rule – Some less enthusiastic sailing spouses have willingly agreed to a cruise for a limited length of time, or in a limited manner. Though we all admire and love to meet those who have circumnavigated, even they will say that there are no rules to this. If you like to sail, and are interested in travel, there are ways to make it work. Some spouses meet the boat in the Bahamas, Caribbean, or wherever after the captain and a crew have delivered it. Carolyn Goodlander, veteran circumnavigator, excellent sailor, and super fun cruising buddy told me that “There is no shame in yacht transport.” I met a woman in Trinidad in October who told me they were leaving for the Med on November. I was nonplussed, until she said they’d gotten a great deal on a yacht transport, and could sleep on their yacht for the ten day passage. We’ve met a lot of couples who cruise the Caribbean in the winter, haul the yacht in Grenada or Trinidad, and fly home for the summer. I won’t talk your spouse into trying this lifestyle, but you may consider adjusting your dream to meet their comfort level. If that doesn’t work, buy a land yacht or vacation home.

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IMG01488Should we sell our home? We did. Frankly, we couldn’t afford both home and boat, so we sold the home and lived aboard the boat for eight years, year-round, in Maine. Now that we’re down here, we think we would have been too stressed if we’d kept a home in Maine. We have friends who had to fly back to New Jersey this fall because their home sustained major damage in Hurricane Sandy. That just isn’t fair. They had to haul their boat during prime cruising season to stay home, in the winter, supervising repairs. We met a couple from South Africa who had circled the world BK (Before Kids), returned home to have and raise four kids to college age, and left them attending local colleges and living together in the family home. Now there’s an idea. Obviously, if you are going to sail half the time, you need a home for the other half. La Luna is our year-round home. NOTE: For some reason all of my “La Luna Living Aboard” photos from Maine were taken in the winter. It wasn’t like this year-round. Really.

1-STW Things we kept 7-23-2010 11-48-18 AMHow about all your stuff? That’s easy. Get rid of it. It frees you like nothing else. (Having said that, note the size of our boat and discussion about stuff, below.) Seriously, since we lived aboard for eight years, we required a storage locker for our seasonal stuff – boots, coats, and shovels in summer; and dodger, dinghy, and grill in winter. It was larger than we needed for those things because we hadn’t yet gotten rid of some precious items. Before we left we shipped the art to Favorite, participated in two yard sales, and gave stuff away. We also are blessed with dear friends with a very large dry basement, who have allowed me to store precious items and photos until we return. Other than that – it’s all gone or on board. If we ever get a land home again it will be tiny. In fact, I follow the Tiny House Blog, just to keep me centered.  NOTE: Except for the art shipped to Favorite, this smallish pile is all we kept on land. Get rid of your stuff. Most of this are photos and mementos that will probably be scanned and thrown. Get rid of more stuff.

How big a boat do we need? A lovely woman who reads this blog, actually triggered this post. Her husband has assured her that they can go cruising on a 32 foot boat. They certainly can. I wouldn’t, but they can. When we purchased La Luna, we fully intended to live aboard for five years. She’s 47 feet and I needed every bit of it for living aboard, working full-time, and having as “normal” a life as possible. Somewhere during year one or two, I told EW that if he wanted to sell her before we left, I could go cruising on a 38 to 40 foot boat. I could, too. I don’t have to because EW had already bonded with La Luna, and wanted to keep her. I’m in love with her too, and am delighted we kept her. In my humble opinion, the boat needs to be big enough to have the following:

  • A comfortable cockpit that will seat six comfortably for a party on the hook. (We’ve had 14 on board at times. EW and I find that comfortable. Some of the catamaran sailors seemed tense.)
  • Refrigerator and real freezer – even if the freezer is small.
  • Really good stove and oven.
  • Excellent galley storage actually in or near the galley.
  • Two separate sleeping cabins so the guests aren’t in the main saloon.
  • Storage. You don’t need as much as we have. The more storage you have the more stuff you will acquire. We seem to have forgotten the “new thing comes aboard, old thing goes off rule.” You will want some comforts from your shore life: Christmas decorations, art, photos, and Maine maple syrup are a few that come to mind for me. Having said that, we have friends on a 52 Tayana (you know who you are) and the captain emphatically stated that they don’t have a sewing machine on board because they don’t have room to store it. Oh yes they do. I could find room for that machine in five minutes.
  • Room below for your lifestyle. EW and I can both be below at the same time, each enjoying our own favorite pastime in the main saloon. He plays guitar on the settee and I write at the dining table, or read in my corner. However, I do wish our chart table was more comfortable and had more air circulation. I’d prefer to write there.
  • Oh, and of course most important, the boat has to be well built and blue ocean worthy. In a group of cruisers, there are many different opinions about which boats we would each take to sea. EW and I agree (probably because he taught me), that we are comfortable in La Luna because she is a very well built, mono-hull, with a strong hull and decks, and full keel. This works for us. Each cruiser and potential cruiser must do their own research and decide what works for them. Remember, you need to trust your boat. I do trust La Luna. ( There are many, many, many factors to consider when choosing a cruising sailboat. This is not to be considered a definitive list. The best recent book on the subject is Beth Leonard's Voyager’s Handbook, the Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising.  Purchase that book and read it. Use post it notes and a highlighter like we did. Read other, more technical blogs. Face it, Harts at Sea is a lifestyle blog, not a boat blog, and  I know my limits. In fact, here’s a link to a blog by friends of ours – more about them below. They listed their catalogue of the instructional CDs they have found helpful. http://www.zerotocruising.com/research/)

Catamaran Disclaimer: We have nothing against catamarans, in fact, many of our dear friends sail them. I have great envy of their room, gathering space, and especially the freezers. EW would not cross an ocean in a catamaran. He readily admits that his prejudice was formed many years ago, and that cats have changed greatly. He, however,  has not changed so much in that regard, and because of that, I have not. On the other hand, we both agree that if we were going to just cruise the Caribbean and Bahamas, we would switch to a catamaran – as long as I can take my stove with me. They have great space, certainly don’t roll as much, and most have little or no teak to varnish. Who knows? Instead of a tiny home, we may retire from our retirement on a cat.

How much experience do we need? We have met a few sailors who had zero to no experience before setting off on their cruising adventure. Most have come to no harm, nor have they caused others to be harmed. Mike and Rebecca  – those friends with the CD collection -- named their boat and their website Zero to Cruising http://www.zerotocruising.com/, because they went from zero or “total sailing newbies” to cruising when they set off on their dream. Mike and Rebecca are remarkably focused people, each have exceptional drive, courage, focus and a desire to learn. They have continued to take advanced courses while thoroughly enjoying life in the Caribbean. We’ve also met folks who weren’t ready when they left and had bad to horrible experiences. I’d  suggest going when you’re ready to nearly ready. EW had crossed an ocean and delivered boats from the Bahamas and Florida to Maine. He’d been working in the industry for over 30 years and he can fix nearly anything. I had been sailing since I met EW, and had done overnights on both of our boats and with others. I guess that’s why I don’t have Mike and Rebecca’s list of CDs – EW was my primary source. (You can’t have him as I got him first and am holding on to a good thing.)  Before we left, we both took courses in navigation, first aid, and understanding weather. (Full disclaimer, I slept through the weather course.) EW had his Captain’s license – which is not needed but does allow us to get a discount on insurance. More experience is better. Research what you don’t know. Read a lot – including the books about difficult passages – and get at least some ocean sailing experience before setting off. Both of us can drive and anchor the boat, handle a night watch and make decisions about sail trim, navigate, drive and beach the dinghy, use both radios, know when the engine sounds right, cook a meal, and doctor the other. This is a team effort, and the more ready all team members are, the better the effort. We have met women and couples who have taken actual sailing “courses” at sea and none of them regretted it.

Here’s the thing … this lifestyle is a lot easier, safer, and more accessible than it was 20 years ago. Cell phones, satellite phones, SSB radios, and the Internet allow us to keep in contact nearly all the time. We can receive up-to-date weather information while we are at sea, and we can have an AIS VHF radio which lets us know what big ships are out there and whether we are on a collision course with us. Frankly all of that can make it too easy for some folks to set sail with perhaps a skosh less experience than they really need. More is better.

Here’s the other thing … If this is something you have wanted to do, and really want to go for it – then do it. It’s an amazing, wonderful, enriching lifestyle. I look happy, don’t I?

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