Portrait of a Cruiser – Maryanne and Kyle Webb

With a desire to actively “steer” their lives rather than safely continue on the conveyor belt of life, Maryanne and Kyle Webb merged their dreams and set out on a life of cruising the world nearly 20 years ago. For many years their cruising was interrupted with periods based in one place to “stuff-the-kitty”, but since 2016 they have been full-time cruisers able to explore the more remote ports of the South Pacific. Currently they are exploring Stewart Island at the bottom of New Zealand.

Published 4 years ago

Names of Owners: Maryanne and Kyle Webb

Nationality: USA and UK.  Kyle is American and Maryanne is British (and Naturalized American)

Boat Name: Begonia

Boat Type: Fountaine Pajot – Athena 38 (Sailing Catamaran)

Home Port: Portland, Oregon USA (although the boat has yet to visit Portland).

We consider ourselves nomadic so had to really think about which state and town to pick for our home port when we registered the boat with the USCG.  Oregon had the benefit of being a place Kyle once lived (and loves), with some fantastic sailing, and is sales-tax free.  I insisted I had to at least visit Portland before I’d give our boat its identity and we spent a glorious weekend there (without the boat).  One day we hope to actually sail into port.

Blog: https://sv-footprint.blogspot.com

How did you start cruising?

Wow – that is a tough one.  It really happened quite organically.  Years ago, I (Maryanne) had a notion that living in the west, and in the 20th century (at the time) was just a little too easy;  I was feeling too remote from any basic skill that all humans would have had in the very recent past (sourcing food, water, building suitable shelters, managing basic medical issues, etc).  I didn’t ‘know’ the expected weather from observation and experience, but from TV forecasts.  I felt coddled with electric lights, and cars, and washing machines, and grocery stores, and the like.  I felt somewhat that I was simply riding the conveyor-belt of life and not actively steering in any particular direction.  While I had no desire to be stranded in the wilds and left totally to my own devices, I did want to feel a little more tested than modern western life was allowing for, a little more aware of the natural world at large, and in charge of my own future.  I had an idea that sailing across the Atlantic might provide such a test.  Simply being able to exist in the microcosm of a boat, for weeks on end, with no immediate outside help, and with only the skill and things I’d been organized enough to bring along, appealed to me and I put this goal on my bucket list.  At the time I didn’t even know how to sail.  I signed up for two different weekend sailing courses, but both times was prevented from doing any actual sailing due to too little, or too much wind.

Eventually I met Kyle who already had a small boat and was keen to do a lot of inland sailing.  Our dreams merged and expanded, and we soon found ourselves planning for a life aboard, crossing oceans, and visiting as many places as possible from our nautical home.  And so we made it happen, here I am, writing this on route between Tonga and New Zealand.  Kyle’s story is a little different and rather than repeat it here you can view it in the blog post here.

Describe what sort of cruisers you are:

We’re a couple, and have been living together aboard boats now since we decided to begin our lives as a couple in 2002. We do not have a home outside of the boat.  Our initial cruising was a relocation from Lake Erie to Portsmouth in the Chesapeake (a wonderful mix of canals, NY City, and a short offshore hop). We then made the Chesapeake our base for several years (cruising its waters most weekends and every vacation possible) while we both worked and stuffed the sailing kitty. We could eventually break free to enjoy some more serious cruising from 2008 when we left for the Caribbean and beyond.  We have been full time cruisers ever since, although we’ve had occasional longer term stops when the location/season suits us, and at which point we’ve either travelled by land, or I (Maryanne) have been able to find contract positions to stuff the kitty further. Some of our stuff-the-kitty stays have been shorter than planned, some longer – being flexible is much easier if you can so easily take your home with you when you move on.

All through this Kyle had retained his job as a Pilot (flying for Continental Airlines), and simply commuted to wherever the boat was; He’s had some pretty impressive commutes: from the wilds of Scotland, Greece, Panama, etc. He’s used boats, trains, buses, and had to wheel his suitcase miles through the streets to make his commuter connections.   Kyle was also lucky enough to work for a company that gave unpaid leave of absences, allowing him to travel some of the longer passages (e.g. our first Atlantic crossing – Bermuda to Ireland, and later a trip from Panama to Oregon via the Galapagos and Hawaii).

What type of cruising are you doing currently?

Since Kyle retired in August 2016, we’ve finally been able to hit the more remote ports of the South Pacific, and are now cruising full time (departing from Oakland, California in the USA).   With no longer any need to find a means for Kyle to commute to and from work, we’ve been able to really get off the beaten path.  Between his retirement (August 2016) and August of 2018 we have sailed over  24,000 nm, passed twice through French Polynesia, and crossed from New Zealand to Chile (a 46 day passage).  We’ve hung out at Robinson Crusoe Island, and Easter Island, and even made it to Pitcairn where there is absolutely no chance of a flight out.

What were the key reasons you selected your current boat?

After two mono-hull live-aboard boats, and aware that the boat was as much our home as our means of transport, we decided we wanted a catamaran.  For years we’d considered catamarans as not ‘proper’ sail boats (and the sailing indeed is different), but we really appreciate the stability in a choppy anchorage, that we have more natural light in (and better view from) the raised bridge-deck and cabin, and were finally won over.  We decided a catamaran was, to us, worth the extra expense (and the delayed start to our long distance cruising).

For a while we had a Gemini 105Mc, and when we lost that (a numbing experience, following dragging anchor in a storm in Italy) Kyle started searching for another catamaran, and with all the extra experience of having spent 5 years with the Gemini 105Mc, knew he wanted  a sturdier, larger catamaran.  When we first anticipated the switch from mono-hulls to catamarans we took much of the advice from Charles E. Kanter’s book: “Cruising in Catamarans”.  We wanted our boat to be clearly a sailing boat (and not a floating apartment), not too big (we wanted to be able to hoist the main without electric winches) and manage the sails as solo sailors, and with some good solid fiberglass (so an older boat). After looking at several catamarans on the market to replace our lost Footprint, Kyle settled on the Fountaine-Pajot Athena 38 as the ideal.

For a longer story on why we initially chose a catamaran see our blog post here.

What other boats have you owned?

Kyle started with a Hunter 25 (Baby Cakes – our first boat we lived aboard on together!), and briefly owned a Hunter 355.  We moved up to a beautiful classic S&S Tartan 30 (Prydwen).  Once we determined we wanted a catamaran before we crossed any oceans, we purchased a new Gemini 105Mc (Footprint).  We currently own the FP Athena 38 (Begonia) and hope that there is no need for any future changes.

What changes have you made to your current boat?

When we purchased Begonia she had just completed two years of cruising (including two Atlantic crossings) with a young family, so she was reasonably well equipped (solar power, wind generator, HAM/SSB Radio).  We added a host of extras that we knew we’d want/need – extra solar panels, radar, updated navigation equipment, remote microphone for the VHF.  We setup foot pumps for all the taps and installed a seawater tap at the galley (we don’t have a water maker so we do everything possible to conserve water).  We added an enclosure for the cockpit, and heating too (bedrooms and main cabin).  We swapped out the fixed propellers for feathering versions (streamlining us when under sail). We installed extra lighting (e.g. at the galley), swapped out internal and navigation lights for LED where possible, and what feels like 101 other jobs.  And then there were all the things that needed replacing (sails, running and standing-rigging, trampoline, hatch and window glass, sofa cushions, mattresses, etc).  There always seems to be a list of ‘to do’ and ‘would like’ jobs for when money or opportunity arise, and especially there remains a bunch of cosmetic stuff we’d like to do at some point.

Most useful equipment fitted, and reasons for this choice:

Lots spring to mind, but my key two would be the AIS and the LifeTag system, and heating was a big deal addition in both our catamarans.

At the end of 2017 we installed an AIS Transponder.  For years we’d appreciated having an AIS receiver (giving the ability to call a passing cargo ship by name, and therefore more likely to get a response), but in 2017 we noticed that so many other cruisers were simply relying on their instruments to keep watch for them (we don’t agree with this, and, with an exception for solo cruisers, think it is irresponsible, irrational and just crazy!).  We wanted to make ourselves as visible as possible to this category of cruiser and their automated alarms and instruments.  The event that finally made us splash out on the AIS transponder was in Tonga, on an overnight passage between island groups.  A fellow cruising boat was planning the very same passage but departed several hours after us.  We were sailing and going slower than they were (they were under motor), when I noticed from their AIS data that they were approaching us from behind and were likely to pass close to us in the next few hours, in the dark of night.  I made a courtesy VHF call to let them know we were ahead of them and to keep an eye out for our lights.  The reply I received was basically – “Oh, we sleep at night – you just woke us up – if we get too close, just call again and I’ll keep the radio close so you can wake us up again”. Basically that vessel determined that I was now responsible for his and my navigation!  Gees!

The other item that has been very important is our Raymarine Lifetag system.  A little tag we can wear, or slip in a pocket, that sets off a very loud alarm on the boat if the tag either gets wet or too far from the receiving station; it also ties into our chartplotter and will mark a MOB position as well as sounding the alarm.  (There are more modern systems available now).  One of my biggest fears was to wake up and find Kyle not aboard.  We implemented all sorts of rules for the person on watch: we keep an hourly log with position report (so we’d at least know an approximate time and position of when any incident occurred), and when on solo-watch and exiting the cockpit we’re to use the jacklines and a life jacket at all times, etc – but the fear never went away and it meant that if I was supposed to be sleeping, and things on deck sounded funny, I would fret or even get up and check on Kyle.  It took some time for us each to trust that the other would ask for help if they needed it, and even when that trust was gained, if we could not hear footsteps or not get an answer to a call, we still worried that the other had somehow been swept overboard.  Having the alarm system meant we could finally get some restful sleep (especially in rough weather).  We are very diligent about using it.

Finally installing heating makes the boat feel much more like a cozy home, and extends both our cruising grounds and seasons.  We currently have the Webasto forced air heating system (very similar to the Espar  model).

Equipment regrets, or things you would do differently:

After so many years of cruising and live-aboard experience, with different equipment and different boats, we were pretty confident of the equipment that we needed and didn’t need. There are no seriously expensive regrets that spring to mind.

We have a pair of very fancy and very expensive image stabilizing binoculars that we purchased for an Antarctic holiday and figured would be good for the boat: Fujinon techno-stabi 14×40, however they are just too bulky and heavy for me to really use, they also take up a lot of shelf space (so I guess that would count as a regret, although they are Kyle’s go-to binoculars for inspecting the rigging).  Luckily we have a smaller pair, Canon image stabilizer 10×30, that work just fine (and our camera has a great zoom too).

Our wireless autopilot remote we rarely use and the battery life is not great (so we could have done without that).

We have a Portland Pudgy dinghy with the life-raft kit which we love, and we also have the sailing kit which adds to our fun.  On the plus side we don’t need to also carry a life raft and manage all the servicing (cost and time) that having one would require, but on the negative side it can only hold a low horse-power motor and means we have to allot time at each end of a passage to setup and dismantle the lifeboat mode options – which means we often don’t bother (leaving it setup in liferaft mode for mid ocean/short stops), and so the result is that we go ashore less than I’d like.  Ideally we’d have space for a kayak or some other mode of transport about the anchorage, but that isn’t about to happen and I wouldn’t stall cruising to make it so.

List the countries you have cruised:

To date our cruising has extended from Turkey to the East and New Zealand to the West.  We’ve been incredibly lucky. North America:  USA (East coast, west coast, Hawaii), Canada (barely touched), Mexico ; The Caribbean: Anguilla, Bermuda,  BVI, USVI, Antigua & Barbuda,  Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, Sint Maarten, St Martin, St Eustatius, Turks and Caicos,  ; Central/South America: Panama, Chile ; The South Pacific: French Polynesia, Niue, Tonga, Cook Islands, Pitcairn Islands, Galapagos (Ecuador) ; Europe & the Mediterranean Sea: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Norway, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, ; Australasia: New Zealand

Future cruising plans:

Plans.. Hmmm… Just keep living the life until we don’t enjoy it anymore or some drawback of ageing prevents living aboard.  Although a circumnavigation (or two) is likely, it isn’t a specific goal.  After 2 years in the South Pacific, we’re looking forward to heading a little more West, and plan to spend some time in Australia and the Indian Ocean in the next few years (but only after some serious exploring of New Zealand this season).  There is a long list of places we’d like to visit and views we’d like to see, and no doubt not enough years remaining to do so – we can only do our best and try!

List the oceans/seas you have crossed:

North Atlantic (Bermuda-Ireland), Pacific (New Zealand-Chile-New Zealand, Mexico-New Zealand and Panama-Hawaii-Oregon).  Is that what you mean?  I’m not sure what you count as a Sea? A quick look on Wikipedia for seas and lots of oddities are listed as ‘seas’ and here are some that we’ve crossed: North Sea, Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, Caribbean Sea, English Channel, Mediterranean Sea, Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Bay of Biscay, Gulf of Maine, Sea of Chiloé,  Chesapeake Bay, Sea of Cortez, Ligurian Sea, etc…

Approximate sea miles:

Footprint: 16,000+nm

Begonia: 41,000+nm (we didn’t keep records before that, nor were we sailing such great distances nor so often).

So as of end 2018 a total of around 64,000 miles.

Scariest day on the water:

We’ve had a number of close calls for that accolade!

We lost Footprint after dragging anchor in Italy, but surprisingly that really wasn’t so frightening, as we never felt at any risk ourselves (of course the aftermath and shock of losing our home and knowing that our cruising plans for the Mediterranean were brutally cut short, was quite a different story).

We’ve lost a rudder at sea (between Galapagos and Hawaii with 3000+nm to go, wondering if the 2nd rudder would survive the remaining journey – thankfully it did, but we replaced both anyway), the metal shaft just failed, sheared, and the rudder blade end dropped in the ocean leaving half the stock still attached to the boat!.

We’ve hit a whale at sea, slammed into it as it floated right at the surface (presumably asleep), and had a frightening few minutes while we checked the boat for cracks and leaks (thankfully none). See our blog post on the experience here.

As for the most scary day, we differ for that answer.  For me it was when the forestay came undone during an Atlantic passage between North Carolina and Antigua  – our first real major challenge. For Kyle it was exiting the Strangford Lough a little later than we should have  (missing the slack water) in Northern Ireland.

One scary day we can both agree on was in Greece.  We had visitors aboard and on one island hop the famed Meltemi winds bombarded us with wild gusts of 60kt and crazy waves making life above and below miserable and somewhat petrifying.  When we finally arrived at the harbor of our destination the sea state inside the harbor wasn’t much better and we needed to med-moor between other boats (with nobody ashore to throw lines to).  It was especially frightening and close to overwhelming knowing that we really only had one chance to get the lines ashore and fastened, a reminder of why no sailor likes a schedule.  This was certainly not the Mediterranean sailing experience we had envisioned giving our guests!

Best cruising moment:

That seems a cruel and difficult question – to single out one of the many amazing moments.  This is so hard to pick – the cruising life is made up (it seems) of much of the dreariness of daily life, but also of both planned and unexpected highs (and, of course, a few unexpected lows).  Just finding myself sat in the cockpit reading a book on a sunny day with a stunning view is enough to make me pinch myself at how lucky I am.  Standing at the bow watching dolphins whenever they choose to join us never ceases to bring a giant smile.  I have fond memories of walking on Waikiki beach at night (while docked at the Ala Wai Marina) and enjoying a street performer’s fire-dancing on the beach.  Our first time sailing by the Statue of Liberty was quite the milestone, and I loved our time in

New Jersey (Weehawken, on the Hudson River) with views of the Manhattan skyline from our cockpit.  Passing through the Golden Gate Bridge by San Francisco with humpback whales breaching was another special moment. Anchored off Hotuiti, Easter Island, with a view of the amazing statues (moais) of Tongariki. In Honomolino Bay (Hawaii) swimming with spinner dolphins that spent an hour surrounding our boat one morning at anchor.

Kyle especially enjoys a nice peaceful anchorage with picture postcard view, or the times spent watching the 1000s of stars on a moonless night at passage, or the blaze of bioluminescence from the stern on a night watch.  He also enjoyed many a moment sampling Scottish whiskies at the various distilleries we were lucky to sail to.  We are so fortunate that our cruising lives are filled with wonderful moments both simple and exotic.

One such moment was in April of 2014, when we had been forced to depart early from the Galapagos Islands with the threat of an imminent tsunami (which luckily never materialized).  This meant we’d departed without any fresh provisioning; we had no onions, no eggs, no fruit and a long passage ahead of us to Hawaii.  The winds and route took us by the uninhabited Clipperton Island and we were excited to see birds and dolphins, a pleasant break from the normal offshore passage views.  Being so remote we were very surprised to spy another vessel there, but it didn’t answer to our radio calls, and we were wary that it might be doing something illegal (drugs?), so we decided it would be safer to give it a wide berth as we sailed around the island.  As we were about to peel away and continue our passage that very same vessel called us (sounding equally surprised to see another vessel). After some friendly welcome chit chat back and forth we found our imagination was totally wrong, there was nothing illegal, it was a fancy fishing charter cruise out of San Diego with passengers enjoying some very impressive sport fishing.  The captain asked if we had a satellite phone – his was suddenly not working and his company would be concerned for his and the passenger welfare since he’d not been able to contact them for several days.   While we had limited minutes on our sat phone, we were happy to make the call to advise their office that all was well and alert them to the communications issues.  The captain then asked if there was anything he could do for us?… Not to miss the chance I asked for a couple of onions  for the passage ahead, and they came and dropped off a fantastic load of fresh provisions for us – I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to see an egg – and had a cake baked by the end of the day to celebrate!

Favourite cruising area and why:

Oh- another tough choice.

I think I’d say Greece.

So many islands, and so beautifully photogenic, beautiful food, plentiful tiny harbors, and despite the language gap, so many friendly welcomes.

But Baja Mexico was an absolute unexpected and hidden gem (they call it “the poor man’s Galapagos” and it certainly deserves to be better known, beautiful geology, amazing ocean wildlife, and I’ll forever remember the times spent from the cockpit watching the flying mobula rays leaping from the water).

Finally we were blown away by the on-shore scenery at the tiny island country of Niue.  This can’t be called a cruising ground as there is only the one harbor, but it is well worth visiting to see the fantastic coral caves and features (especially Togo Chasm – a giant swath of razor-sharp coral pinnacles, with a narrow path provided that meanders through the pinnacles, takes you by some fantastic sea views, and ends with a descent by a very long ladder into a sandy oasis, palm trees and all!).

AND you can swim with whales in Niue (with an approved guide) and cruisers often find they are sharing the mooring field with a humpback mother and calf.  Snorkelling in the shallows by the cliffs just off the boat you can see sea snakes and enter a sea cavern.  Niue is a memorable place. Note: English speakers find it hard to spell Niue  – but Kyle came up with “Niue is Nice with the ‘c’ turned on its side” and now we never forget.

Favourite anchorage:

For a single anchorage rather than cruising area my favourite is Suwarrow in the northern Cook Islands (although not the friendliest bottom for anchoring).  The remote atoll is staffed for part of the year with two park rangers that are so generous with their time and knowledge.  We’ve been twice and each time has been a highlight of that cruising year.  While there we’ve enjoyed time spent hanging out with the rangers, hearing their stories of life, and learning from them such skills as the many ways to open and eat coconuts, or traditional palm frond weaving.  Not to mention the time spent with fellow cruisers, sharing stories and potlucks on the beach at sunset, or impromptu music sessions (including some Polynesian songs and dances if the rangers are feeling so moved).  Add to this the chance to swim regularly with manta rays, and observe the local coconut crabs, or nesting boobies.  There is little of ‘normal life’ to distract us in Suwarrow (no shops, no roads, etc) – but is a fantastic place to spend a couple of weeks when sailing about in the South Pacific. A time to relax, catch up on a few boat jobs, and enjoy the moments, and best of all to get some quality time with genuine Cook Islanders.

Favourite cruising apps:

We have several, but my favorite app as a cruiser is not specifically a sailing app, it is ‘Pocket Earth’ a smart phone app that lets you download in advance (for offline use) street and topographical maps of anywhere we might plan to visit.  When finding my way around a new town (however small) I can see street names and points of interest (police station, restaurants, tourist sites, etc), and we regularly find need of the topographical maps when hiking (lots of trails are marked on the downloaded maps and this has saved us when we’ve been bush-whacking about and wondering if we’re lost), it has also directed us to some spectacular viewpoints that were not marked on the tourist maps, and it has some Wikipedia entries for some of the points of interest.  I’m sure there are other equivalent apps, but we’ve seen no need to change since we installed Pocket Earth.

Sailing apps we regularly use are Navionics (for the appropriate region, and with the charts downloaded for offline use, backup to our main chartplotter), Anchor (an anchor alarm app), MarineTraffic, and a bunch of reference apps: Nav Rules Pro, etc.

On the laptop we make daily use of Airmail, Predict Wind, and qtVlm (a free equivalent to PredictWind, and useful if you can download your own grib files).

I make regular use of a postcard app (I use Touchnote, there are others) so that I can send real postcards in the mail to the kids among my family – I feel that this helps me keep a relationship with them from so far away; when I get to see something cool (and when I have internet), I can share it with my nephews etc.  They receive a postcard through their letter box at home,  and despite my long absences I hope it helps them know I’m thinking of them on my travels.

Another set of apps that gets lots of use are the language apps.  We install two-way translation dictionaries for the languages required, and now it is also possible to install an offline version of Google Translate which will translate whole sentences offline (Wow!  That came in very handy in Chile after we had an attempted robbery at night!).  I’ve also installed DuoLingo (which has an offline option for a fee) and hours of podcasts and audio language lessons which I use on passage to brush up my very basic language skills before arriving in a new country.

Finally, not an app, but the data and software combination allowing for an offline Wikipedia (with Kiwix software – Free) – this gets regular use – from looking up an actor from a movie we are watching, to the history of a place we are visiting, a bird we’ve just seen, and 101 other ‘let me check’ moments aboard.  When we get a good internet access we download an update (but it takes 80Gb for a full Wiki with pictures, and 20Gb with no pictures).

Favourite cruising websites:

Without a doubt our favourite cruising website is Noonsite.com; we reference this  site regularly, especially when planning our cruising for the coming year/season, the ability to find so much useful information on the rules, regulations and facilities of a new-to-us country is outstanding.  We save to PDF important pages, and even have an (older) offline version (it would be great if it were possible to download an offline version more easily – in the style of the offline Wikipedia options and we trust that one day this might be possible.

We’ve also really appreciated some of the humongous efforts of cruisers that have gone before us and documented the 100s of tips on their own web sites – that subsequently made our visit easier.  In particular Soggy Paws (for our Pacific travels the compendiums were so very helpful: http://www.svsoggypaws.com/files/), and the information provided by SV Whoosh (when we were in Europe)  http://www.svsarah.com/Whoosh/WhooshEuropeMain.html.  Whatever the source of useful information, we try to give back by submitting any any updates and insights we discover.

Favourite cruising books:

We read a lot aboard Begonia.  Generally we always have some non-fiction that we are reading to each other (Kyle reads while I cook, and I read while he washes up).  I normally have both a paperback on the go (the serendipity of book swaps!) and a Kindle book too (especially the free ones). As for sailing/cruising books in particular, we’ve read the gamut of the classics:  Lin and Larry Pardey, Bernard Moitessier, the amazing Smeetons, Chay Blyth, Francis Chichester, Joshua Slocum, etc.  Some we’ve loved, and re-read, some not so much!  I also love the story of “Tinkerbelle” by Robert Manrey, the tiny (13.5’) sailboat that crossed the Atlantic (one man going with the boat he had so he didn’t have to give up the dream!).  I particularly enjoy learning how others have managed in adverse conditions (with the hope that I might learn from their mistakes…) so I like the boating disaster stories.  One of the first I particularly enjoyed was Steven Callahan’s: “Adrift: 76 Days Lost At Sea”.   Kyle loves anything by Captain Fatty Goodlander (including his articles in Cruising World Magazine),  Fatty’s beautiful writing describes his love of both cruising and of his amazing wife Carolyn, and often brings more than a little tear to Kyle’s eyes (along with plenty of chuckles).  Additionally – we have the excellent and well presented “French for Cruisers” and “Spanish for Cruisers” both by Kathy Parsons – they really help when needing to communicate in a hardware store, or with a local mechanic the part you need or the problem you have (as well as 100’s of other real life scenarios made easy).  On top of this we generally keep some Lonely planet type guides for the areas we are currently visiting (or planning to visit).

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

There are many types of cruisers out there, for some it is a way of life, for others a two year plan, yet others simply rent a boat in a different destination every time they feel the itch.  There is no right way, so resist the feeling that you ‘need’ what others tell you  – decide what it is that you really need to make your cruising life, and don’t let the other stuff keep you at the dock.

Cruising is also not for everyone.  There are 101 frustrations and sacrifices (proximity to family and friends being #1).  It pays to be aware of the negatives in advance so they don’t cloud your dreams after you’ve committed.  Since both of us had spent our pre-cruising lives rather root-less, and regularly moving, we always knew cruising would be a good fit for us, but you might be just as happy to rent a boat for a week or two once in a while, cruise some of the same wonderful waters, and return home to the stability of your home and a job and proximity to your family (and avoid all the boat maintenance while you are at it!).  There is no right way, or wrong way to do it, and we’re fully aware that our way may not work for anyone else but us.

Some cruisers will have beautiful large new boats decked out with all the options and toys (washing machines, kite surfing kit, scuba kit, etc) – and some will have the absolute minimum (maybe not even a refrigerator) but they all get to appreciate the same view, and mix with the same locals.  There are LOTS of things I wish I had, but to acquire would mean making a spending decision to sacrifice something else that I don’t want to lose (especially time).  Prioritize what is important to you (and to your spouse, if going as a team) – don’t go without what you’ve decided is critical, and don’t sweat the other stuff. We don’t have a freezer, nor a kayak, nor a water maker. It is not that we don’t want such things, but we don’t want to spend any more time tied to the dock, waiting until we can afford them.  We are out there right now and getting to live this amazing life – these were sacrifices we were prepared to make, while heating was something we didn’t want to leave the dock without.  Everyone’s choices will be different. If you really want to go cruising, then get real about it.  Only once you have made the decision, and begun formulating a plan (priorities, budget, timeline, etc), does everything else really seem to then fall into place, then before you know it, you are part of that dream.

Boats and cruising will take as much money from you as you can spare to throw at it, but there are plenty of things you can do to avoid spending a fortune (or even needing to be rich).  We were particularly impressed with the book ‘Sensible Cruising, the Thoreau approach’ (by Don Casey & Lew Hackler) which evangelizes to go with the boat you have.  Whatever your budget we think it makes for a good read.  Our philosophy is we have a fixed amount of savings and we want that to last as long as possible, so while we spend a frighteningly large proportion of our budget on critical maintenance and safety items, we deliberately avoid spending on too much luxury.  Staying in marinas or eating out is a treat not a normal, etc.  Our goal is to keep cruising as long as possible with what we have and avoid the expense of anything we don’t really need.  That is not to say we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy the places we visit, we rent a car from time to time, and squeeze the most out of experiencing a place (snorkeling, hiking, etc).  You need to choose your own way.

Like many cruisers, I didn’t come from any family sailing tradition, so please don’t think that is a requirement.  I didn’t learn to sail until I was well into my 30’s (nor did Kyle).  Unusually it seems, as the woman, I was the one that pushed Kyle to incorporate into our plans the longer distance cruising. Cruising is definitely not simply sailing.  Of course you have to sail, but this is such a tiny proportion of the skill set required.  Along the way you are going to need to acquire skills for navigation, weather forecasting and route planning, languages, research, communications, cooking with peculiar or limited foods, and of course fixing things: electronics, engines, sewing, medical care skills, sometimes it seems sailing is the easy part!   If you cruise as a couple, or regular team, you can divide this knowledge among you (with as much overlap as possible), but you’ll no doubt never stop learning.   If you can’t go cruising right now, then you can at least start learning some of these skills.

Why cruise? In a few sentences, what is it that inspires you to keep cruising?

There is just too much that I want to see in the world, and no way I know of that will allow me to see it all.  Cruising gives me the option to visit so many of these amazing places without having to invest in hotels, and flights, and without the need to squeeze such visits into limited vacation time from work (although we did manage to mix cruising with working for many years).  To be able to sail by the statue of liberty, to sail into Tahiti, or Bora Bora, to sail the French canals (through the wine regions), through Loch Ness in Scotland, through Norwegian Fjords, and by Easter Island statues, or just spending time snorkeling among amazing marine life, can’t help but to send a tingle through the spine and a realization of how lucky and privileged I am to be able to do this.

Any other comments:

If you do find yourself out there, and happen to see us – please feel free to swing by and say Hi – we love to share stories and learn of other lives and adventures.  And if we can’t see you in person – we can share with each other the things we discover via websites like noonsite.

Sometimes fate takes a part in screwing with your plans.  When we dragged anchor and lost Footprint we were in Agropoli Italy, and planning to make our way to Spain and eventually back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the USA.  That plan instantly had to change.  We were very lucky in that we were fully insured, and our insurance policy (Jackline) paid out in full and with both kindness and compassion for our situation and lots of hand holding.  Losing out boat was a terrible blow to us, and to our plans, but soon we found we were in the kind bosom of the Agropoli community (with locals Enzo and Pasquale being shining stars from the beginning) and a new adventure simply started from there (just not one that we’d planned for).  It took some time for us to find a new boat, and then get it ready for cruising again – it certainly didn’t feel at all easy at the time, but now it is but a distant and faded memory – we did it.  For more on the day of the loss see http://sv-footprint.blogspot.com/2011/10/agropoli-october-7th-day-1.html

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  1. April 4, 2019 at 11:10 PM
    Noonsite Team says:

    What a fabulous article. Will be reading your blog for sure. Especially keen to learn more about the NZ to Chile passage. Fair winds