Portrait of a Cruiser – Jim and Joy Carey with daughters Kelly and Erin

The third in our “Portrait of a Cruiser” series, this month we profile another double-handed crew who have also cruised extensively with their (now grown up) daughters. Americans Jim and Joy Carey have always cruised as a family, but finally “cut the dock lines” as double-handers in 2002 and have been liveaboards ever since. They still enjoy frequent visits from their daughters as they cruise east-about around the world.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Portrait of a Cruiser – www.noonsite.com

Names of Owners:

Jim and Joy Carey – with daughters Kelly and Erin


United States

Boat Name: 


Boat Type/Model and Size: 

Omega 45, cutter rig, built in Taiwan in 1980

Your Home Port: 

Bellingham, WA, USA

How did you start cruising?

Jim was already an experienced sailor when we met in 1971. Our first real date was aboard Scheherazade, a classic 7-meter racing sloop. I was white-knuckled the entire time! After we married we saved for 6 years to purchase a bare hull and built Fenwick Light. We cruised Fenwick Light up the coast of the USA from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington, in 1979 with our (then) one-year-old daughter, Erin.

We could never get the sailing out of our system, so took off again, this time with two daughters, Erin and Kelly, who were 8 and 6, for a season in Mexico. We needed to up-size and purchased Kelaerin in 1991 and almost immediately the four of us set sail back down the coast, 6000 miles through the Panama Canal to Florida.

Describe what sort of cruiser you are:

At this point, I’d say we are lifetime global cruisers. We have no idea as to when we will stop. We are slow-going, having left Florida in 2002 (after some cruising back and forth to Puerto Rico). We are circumnavigating east-about, so that would make us a bit crazy!

What type of cruising are you doing currently?

We have 50 countries in our wake now, plus several where we land cruised along the way. It was never planned to sail to New Zealand, but we’ve done the crossing 3 times now (and might do it again very soon). Since we’ve gone east about, we haven’t done French Polynesia, so would like to sail to Tahiti this year or next.

What were the key reasons you selected your current boat?

We had outgrown Fenwick Light which was just 32′. We met a cruising family in Cabo San Lucas on board an Omega and instantly fell in love with the boat. I trust Kelearin as she is built very well and has handled all sorts of sea conditions. Kelaerin is very traditional in style and looks good, as well as sails well.

What changes have you made to your current boat?

Loads of painting, both interior, and exterior. We are on our 3rd cockpit canvas set, 2-1/2 sets of sails, interior and exterior cushions done a few times each. We’ve replaced the refrigeration twice now and got a freezer in 2006. We’ve added a utility pole, replaced our bow and stern railings, added a teak deck, added radar and chart plotter (started out with no navigational aids except paper charts and sextant), bought back our original Aries wind vane from Fenwick Light’s new owner in 1995. Installed an autopilot in 2011. Didn’t have hot running water or a shower until last year!!

Most useful equipment fitted:

We were very excited to get back our Aries wind vane. The new owner of Fenwick Light never used it, so Jim approached him one day and asked if he would sell it back to us and he did. Our 6,000 mile trip in 1991 was all hand-steered by us. Our two daughters, ages 13 and 11, did watches with us.

I love having refrigeration and won’t live without it.

Equipment regrets, or things you would do differently:

Some terrible canvas work was done in Turkey. We had to replace it all in just a year or so.

We tried to extend the life of our already 23-year-old Avon dinghy by having it completely overhauled in Subic Bay (Philippines). It was a costly mistake and we should have just spent the money towards a new dinghy as it only lasted another year before it just about disintegrated.

List the countries you have cruised:

Here we go:

Canada, US, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Bermuda, Azores, Gibraltar, Spain, Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Tunisia, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, American Samoa, Western Samoa, New Zealand.

I may have missed a couple.

Future cruising plans:

We will finish our once-only circumnavigation when we arrive back in Bellingham, Washington. First, we still need to sail the Pacific Ocean – through French Polynesia, Hawaii, and Alaska.

List the oceans/seas you have crossed:

Atlantic, Indian and halfway across the Pacific now. If you count seas, we’ve done the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Red Sea, Caribbean, Aegean, South China Sea, Sea of Marmara, Java Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes, Philippine Sea, and the Solomon Sea.

Approximate sea miles: 50,000 +

Scariest day on the water:

We’ve endured a few tough situations, but by far the worst was when we were anchored in a sweet lagoon in Helen Reef (over 200 miles south of the main islands of Palau). We had passed a couple of lovely days interacting with the Rangers, exploring and snorkeling. On the second night just as we were heading to bed, a sudden squall hit us like a train. The winds were nearing 50 knots and we started to drag. There was not much space in this lagoon so we were in danger of going on a reef. The visibility was near zero, the swells were breaking over the outside reef causing big waves and we were taking green water aboard. We were inches from one of the bommies (coral heads) at one point.

The second night the same thing happened again, only worse and for much longer. Jim thankfully keeps his cool in these situations and he saved the boat, running back and forth from the bow to the chart plotter below, while I steered the directions he shouted to me.

Best cruising moment:

So many great moments!

Back on the ’91 portion of our cruising we had been trying to get into San Francisco under the Golden Gate Bridge for a couple of days but were hindered by thick fog. We finally got a break in the ship traffic and made our way in, even though it was still pea-soup fog. When we turned towards the harbor, we broke through the fog, literally like coming out from behind a curtain, and were suddenly in blue skies, a beautiful view of the city and dozens of windsurfers with colorful sails zipping around our boat. Our girls were ecstatic.

Favorite cruising area and why:

We always love the area we are currently in.

We talk about returning to Mexico and spending more time in the Sea of Cortez.

Favorite anchorage:

Off the island of Mal, Ninigo, Papua New Guinea.

We made a special effort to get there when we left Palau and were ultimately rewarded. Thomas, his wife Elizabeth and his son Richard, have been wonderful ambassadors welcoming the few cruisers who go there. They appreciated our gifts and gave so much back to us by inviting us into their homes, their school and church and filling our dinghy with fresh produce.

Since we were traveling east-about, it was our first introduction to the South Pacific hospitality and it was wonderful.

As a study in opposites, Jim would pick Causeway Bay in Hong Kong as it brought back so many memories of his time in the Navy when he entered that harbor at 19 years old.

Favorite cruising apps:

Navionics, Google Earth, OpenCPN.

Favorite cruising website:

Noonsite, of course!  We use it every time before sailing to a new destination.

Favorite cruising books:

We’ve read all the Hiscock books and got to see them present a slide show. We’ve met Hal Roth, read several of the Pardey’s books. I really enjoyed “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” by Ann Vanderhoof and the crazy travels and partially true stories by Tristan Jones.

What advice or message would you want to pass on to anyone new to cruising or thinking about casting off the dock lines?

Go! Go now! While there is a lot you need to go cruising, there’s also a lot you don’t need. Break free from the crowd.

We have participated in a couple of small rallies and they were lots of fun, but our best experiences have always been when we were on our own. You can’t get that when you show up in a harbor along with dozens of other boats, on a schedule and with a set program.

We first sailed with our young daughters. When they were elementary school age it wasn’t so hard to come up with schooling ideas. We never did subscribe to a school program. It was easy enough to stimulate their young minds with exploring Mexico and snorkeling and doing an hour or so of school in the mornings. We did the same thing a few years later and they were middle school age. We stuck to basics: reading, writing and ‘rithmatic’. They kept journals, read profusely, and drew lots of pictures of the scenes they were seeing as we explored.

My biggest regret was once we hit Florida in ’92 we decided to go back to land for a while. I can say with certitude that we would have been much better off in every way had we stayed aboard and cruised and worked as we went. The girls grew up, developed lives of their own, but they have made the effort to come and visit us aboard and even cruise with us. They’ve come to Spain, Turkey, Egypt, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Palau, and New Zealand so far.

What is it that inspires you to keep cruising?

In fact, it doesn’t take much. We’ve had several times when I wanted to “quit”, then I hear about another island, or meet some cool cruisers we want to cruise with for a while.

Recently I was a little downcast and thought since we were aging not so gracefully, that maybe we should hurry up and get this circumnavigation finished. Then I read about Jeanne Socrates and her trials and tribulations and yet she persists. She’s older than me by a couple of years and I admire her toughness.

We’ve had bouts of land life for a few months at a time over the past 20 years, and for the most part, it didn’t go so well. I’d much rather be cruising.

SY Kelaerin’s website:



Related to following destinations:

Related to the following Cruising Resources: , ,

You must Login or Register to submit comments.

  1. November 22, 2018 at 2:56 AM
    Data Entry says:

    Well said. Keep on out there. Salt in your veins. Cheers!