Wednesday, July 4, 2007

How we got here

July 4, 2007  Wednesday

Happy Independence Day to all in the US.  Enjoy your day off work.  Hope you all find a good way to celebrate.  We have cleared our of Venezuela today (takes all day long with an agent) and we plan to leave tomorrow morning towards Bonaire.  Haven’t decided if we will do a straight sail or stop a few times along the way.  At any rate, we probably will not have internet access again until Monday or Tuesday so don’t expect any blog updates until at least Tuesday.

Someone posted on our message board asking how we prepared for cruising.  The basic steps were as follows:

  1. Went on large tall ship cruises
  2. Bill took a few sailing lessons
  3. Read a lot and learned a lot about boats and sailing
  4. Bareboat chartered with more knowledgeable sailors
  5. I took a few sailing lessons
  6. Bareboat chartered solo (just the 2 of us, many times)
  7. Bought a boat; put her into charter; and sailed her 8-9 weeks per year for 5 years
  8. Bought a boat more suitable for living aboard comfortably and cruising safely
  9. Took classes and obtained our USCG Captains licenses (OUPV) for up to 100 tons
  10. Bill attended training specifically for our model diesel engine
  11. I attended Offshore Emergency Medical training
  12. Bought a lot of sailing guides and charts
  13. Sold our house and everything in it except basic clothing
  14. Moved aboard and sailed away

Not to bore all those who already know all this; here goes:

For Christmas 1983 I gave Bill a 10-day vacation aboard a Windjammer tall ship called the FLYING CLOUD.  Bill was working himself to death back then and I wanted him to have a restful vacation away from all telephones.  So the Windjammer cruise in the British Virgin Islands seemed like the perfect vacation.  I have always been plagued by severe seasickness.  But the Transderm Scop patch was newly available, so I was willing to give it a try.  Needless to say, I was still seasick even with the patch (even in the no-motion sailing waters of the BVI!); but Bill had a wonderful time.  One afternoon he looked over the rail at all the small sailboats around us and said that one day that was what he wanted to do.   He was hooked on sailing even though we really hadn’t even sailed yet.

For the next several years or so we went on a Windjammer cruise at least once annually.  From Antigua south to Grenada twice on the MANDALAY and in the St. Martin/St. Barths/St. Kitts/Nevis/Saba/Statia area on the POLYNESIA.   We may have also done the FLYING CLOUD again, can’t remember for certain.  These tall ship cruises were great fun but after a few years we began to feel that it was time to move on to a bareboat charter.  So Bill made a deal with friends who sailed.  We would provide free airfare for a bareboat charter if they would teach us how to sail.  Bill also took a few private sailing lessons on Galveston Bay prior to our first bareboat charter.  We chartered with our friend listed as captain and us listed as crew for at about 4 times; each time out of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas.  Then we were ready to start bareboat chartering on our own.

I finally took a few private sailing lessons by the same teacher that Bill had used on Galveston Bay.  Cannot say enough positive things about Bob Marlin; he was a wonderful sailing instructor.  Bill’s sister, Helene, also took a few sailing lessons from Bob Marlin.  We were ready to charter by ourselves.  Helene joined us as crew on our first solo bareboat charter; this time out of Road Harbor in the BVI.  We all had a great time; didn’t sink the boat; made it to where we wanted to go; and didn’t hit another boat.  So our first solo bareboat sailing adventure was a success!

The next year we again chartered and Helene tagged along.  Another couple joined us for one week (a disaster because the wife became a prima donna the instant she boarded the boat).  Our daughter-in-law, Kristina, joined us for the second week.  The Christmas Winds arrived in the BVI during Kristina’s first week on a sailboat.  It was great fun sailing down the Sir Francis Drake Channel with the dinghy surfing along sometimes 8 feet higher than our cockpit!  Oh, by the way, I was still getting seasick every time I stepped on a boat.  But it was fun regardless.

 Then we started chartering boats with just the two of us.  That is when our sailing knowledge began to be firmly established.  Once we had a 32-ft boat in 12 to 15-ft seas and winds over 25 knots.  It was really fun because we were heading downwind.  Shortly after that charter trip we purchased our first boat, a Beneteau 463, and placed her in the charter fleet with Moorings in BVI.  We sailed either our own boat or a similar boat for 8 to 9 weeks annually for the next 5 years.  Once we went to Tonga and sailed a 463 there for 10 days; our first South Pacific sailing experience. 

The Beneteau was scheduled to leave the Moorings fleet during the summer/fall of 2005.  We decided that we would refit the boat and move aboard to cruise the Caribbean for about 5 years.  We anchored in St. Martin in March 2005.  We were there to put a deposit on a dinghy and outboard motor.  We planned to move to move aboard in early 2006 to begin cruising the Caribbean.  As luck would have it, we anchored right next to the boat that we now own.  The story of that original encounter is reflected in the early postings on this blog.  Not wanting to go into all those details again, it can suffice to say that we purchased the 2003 Amel Super Maramu 2000 and she did not need any refit before we moved aboard to start cruising.

Bill had already arranged his employment contract to terminate on April 28, 2006.  We listed our home for sale in early July 2006.  The house sold within 24 hours and the purchasers leased the house back to us through April 30, 2006.  Man, did that work out perfectly!

We had 3 garage sales over the following 8 months, clearing out 36 years accumulation of “stuff.”  It is absolutely amazing how freeing it is to get rid of your “stuff.”  We never want to go back to that lifestyle.  The less you own, the better.  You honestly do not need or really want all the things that the media have convinced you that you cannot live without.

During the final months prior to moving aboard, we each attended Captains license classes and passed the tests.  We each hold a Captains license for vessels up to 100 tons, and can carry 6 passengers if we chose to get into the charter business or the yacht delivery business.  This is commonly called the Six-Pack ticket; proper name is the OUPV license. 

Bill also took a 4 day class for diesel engines; working specifically on a 100-hp turbo Yanmar engine, which is what we have in our Amel.  I attended an Offshore Emergency Medicine class to learn how to treat emergencies when there will be no help arriving anytime soon.  This is quite different than what would be taught in a First Responders course, where you learn only how to stabilize a patient for short term because help will arrive or be available within a couple of hours.

We arranged all our finances to be handled online or automatically.  We set this up several months prior to moving aboard so that we could test to see how well it would work for us.  We are happy to report that this has worked extremely well so far.   Our wonderful daughter-in-law, Kristina, is kind enough to handle what little snail mail that we require and the extremely limited banking that must be done manually.  She has been a Godsend.  Don’t know what we would do without her help.

So, that is how we prepared to move aboard a sailboat.

It isn’t possible for everyone to obtain the USCG Captains license because they might not have the hours of sailing experience required.  It was easy for us because we had owned the Beneteau in the charter program and we had sailed her so frequently by ourselves.  The hours added up quickly and we each easily met the requirements.  If someone is contemplating cruising and does not already have the hours required for a Captains license, then we would strongly advise attending several ASA courses.  These are available all over the country.  And we would very strongly recommend bareboat chartering in various locations at different times of the year so you can experience sailing in varied locations and varied weather conditions. 

Once you have done that, buy a boat and go!   Don’t try to have the boat perfect before starting out.  No boat will ever be perfect.  They are boats, after all.  They are supposed to constantly need something fixed or improved.

As all the sailing books will tell you, the hardest part is letting go the dock lines.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be posted after we confirm that you are not a cyber stalker.