Sunday, March 19, 2017

Final Ruminations On The Cruising Life


Do you miss the sea?
A little North Atlantic cross swell
 That question voiced by a friend was a bit of a surprise. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might ‘miss the sea’. My thoughts had been more along the line as to whether I would miss the cruising lifestyle. Would I miss our boat? Would I miss the great friends we made and who are now spread out around the world? Would I miss the adventure? The cultural interaction? The spirit of discovery? The Albatross buzzing our boat hour after hour with a big sea running on a breezy boisterous afternoon en-route from Tonga to New Zealand?
Bob Hoover, the Albatross
The plan has always been to finish off this blog with a final post summarizing our experience. I could offer the traditional advice to those considering a cruise concerning boat selection, equipment, sails, navigational techniques, provisioning, crew, destinations, weather, attitude, safety, regulation, insurance,  ad infinitum.
Fatu Hiva, the Bay of Virgins
That has  all been written  before   by people with more experience than me hoping to make a few dollars.  I’ll just recommend Beth Leonard’s books as sensible sources of information from an experienced sailor/author. This isn’t going to be that kind of post. The fact is that just about any selection of material goods can be made to work, kind of.  As in everything else in life there is a price to pay for any decision made. Actually making the decision is what matters.
To the Marquesas
The first and most difficult decision is to go. For every boat out there doing a major voyage there are easily a thousand that seldom leave the dock and will never lose sight of land. For every seaman or woman who do the deed, who walk the talk, there are unknown thousands who have a boat and rattle on about their plans for adventure. And that’s all they do.
World's best yachtie bar, The Washaway Bar, Rarotonga
Our small local yacht club is composed mostly of those who do what they say they intend to do. There are a high percentage of people in this group with a great deal of experience sailing and racing around much of the world. And those in the club that haven’t or don’t intend to do these things have other interests and no pretensions.
Tongan sunset
That has been my general impression visiting sail oriented yacht clubs around the world.  They’re  a good group of people, some with more money than others, but those with a real interest in some aspect of sailing, other than talking, tend to band together. If you’re contemplating a cruise or racing or just want to learn about sailing get involved with those that already ‘do’ . Then if the time comes to makes a decision it really won’t involve much of a decision at all. 
Campfire in the Yasawa Group, Fiji



One major consideration for most of us in making that ‘decision’ is money. Can you afford to go? My equation for that determination is: D+M=C,  where D=desire, M=money and C=cruising. And working through this complex formula it can easily be seen that the more desire the less money is necessary and vice versa. Do you have very little and no need for more? It is possible to live very cheaply out there and you might have more fun than ashore.

Ua Po, the Marquesas
Do you have what you need  and you want to go? Go for it, my only caveat is that I personally don’t know anyone who ever made any money out cruising. Or at least made anywhere near as much as they could have made gainfully employed at something else. Monetary gain is not what this is about. Generally quite the opposite.
Cruising kids do very well
What do you really need? To coin a phrase, “All you need is love”. Seriously folks. There are single handers  and some good people revel in their single-handedness. But some cruel person once said there is a reason a lot of those single-handers are single-handers.  



The most important stuff
Most of us enjoy the  company and the best company is a loving spouse, lover, special friend, whatever. They tend to make the fun a lot more fun. There can be an occasional “challenge” out there. Actually I hate that politically correct term “challenge’.  There are times when life is a bitch out there and a person can get scared or hurt or just darn discouraged. You just might need help and who better to be around when the stuff hits the fan than the best other person in your life. Along that line I’ll say a few words about additional crew. Experienced sailors who are airline pilots make very, very good crew! Thanks guys, you’ll always be a the top of my list.
Great crew!
So do I miss the sea? No. Do I  have a love for the sea? No, but I loved  the things we did on the sea. I loved some days we spent on the sea. I would not have missed the time we spent at sea for almost anything. There can be great beauty  at sea and a richness of life and experience equal to any found on terra firma. But to me the sea itself is an immense, uncaring, inanimate and neutral force.  It is powerful beyond human measure, eternal, merciless and deserving of respect and fear. We go to the sea on its terms. Although human innovation has made life afloat easier the sea is still beyond humanity. Go and use it, live off it, enjoy it, but do not play the  fool.


Great experiences
About those other questions. We lived the cruising lifestyle, one pretty good version of it, very well and had a great experience.  After nine years much of the early days seem almost like a dream. I’m sure if we went back to some of our first destinations we’d find they have already changed greatly. We had wonderful experiences but we do not  miss that life. 



Great destinations!
Life here is very good and we look forward to many things. Airstream was a great boat and a faithful steed. That boat will be missed. We will always miss our cruising friends. The way it works in life we will probably never see some of them again. But we hope that’s not completely true and for you all, our house is yours, anytime. Adventure? We have some plans involving airplanes and the non-commercial use thereof. Cultural interaction? Just interacting with the cultural around Humboldt County can be a bit of an adventure plus we’ll be doing plenty of land travel. There are large areas of the world map we haven’t seen at all.
With a little luck the Albatross that spent so much time with us going to New Zealand is still out there somewhere. Watching him soar for hours a few feet above the swells barely moving a feather was a great lesson in energy conservation and the aerodynamics of winged flight. We’ll put some of that to use in the near future.

Love to all,
Bill and Janet Wickman
SV Airstream

N611RS ?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two Questions


We spent a chilly three weeks in Seattle.  Temperatures were in the twenties at night and thirties in the day. An occasional rise to maybe forty-one but darn seldom. There was a nice break for a week in Colorado for a family Christmas.
Christmas with family
We spent the Seattle time getting the boat ready to be shown to potential buyers and socializing with friends in the Seattle area. The boat was actually in reasonably good condition but it is amazing how much ‘stuff’ can come off a machine that’s traveled around the world in the last nine years. And how much cleaner you can really make it, once the stuff is off,  when motivated by a potential sale. I guess that translates as the power of money!
Dinner with good friends in Seattle
Amid all the lovely times with friends and the mild drudgery there has been some time for reflection on this trip.  “What do it mean”…what did it mean? What’s important? Maybe, what’s not.  That’s for the next, and probably  the last,  post of this blog. For now I’d like to answer the two questions that always come up when we meet someone who wants to chat about the trip.
A nice day at sea somewhere
Question Number One:  WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE?

I used to roll my eyes at that question and say something like ‘impossible’. There were too many wonderful places from the Pacific to SE Asia to Greece, Turkey and the Med. But lately its become obvious it deserves an answer. For me that answer is “Vanuatu”. 

309nm to Port Resolution
 The physical beauty of the islands that make up the archipelago, the relatively intact indigenous culture and the experiences we had there made it very special.
Port Resolution, Tanna
Coming into lovely, lush, undeveloped Resolution Bay on the island of Tanna arriving from Fiji with the active volcano of Mt. Yasur erupting above the bay, the same volcano that has been in continuous eruption since Cook first saw it in 1774, was a wonderful beginning. We had a rugged but beautiful ride in the back of a truck over the mountains to the community where we could check into the country.
Hitch hiking in Vanuatu
Customs, Tanna
Yasur volcano from the rim
We hiked to the rim of the volcano and spent a spectacular evening viewing the eruption. We sailed the trades north into the archipelago and enjoyed  the relative sophistication of Port Vila and the unspoiled villages everywhere else. 


Views on Tanna
We chuckled that Vanuatu ‘officially’ declared cannibalism to be over in 1968. And that the word hadn’t got out completely because an unlucky tourist got killed and eaten a couple years before we arrived. We met sweet people everywhere. 






Fresh Cava
We visited “cargo cult”  villages where “John Frum” is the principal god worshipped, especially on Tanna.


The blue holes
We took our dinghies up the cool freshwater streams to the ‘blue holes’ on Espirito Santo. We dove and did penetrations to depths of over two hundred feet on the spectacular wreck of the President Coolidge.
After a deep dive on the Coolidge
Washing clothes on Pentacost

















Boating Vanuatu
James Michener got his inspiration for “Tales of The South Pacific” from his time on Espirito Santo during WWII.  Vanuatu was the “New Hebrides” in those days. To me it is still a most special place.
Bora Bora in the distance
When Janet is asked that same question she is likely to respond with “the South Pacific”. When I bug her to be more specific she will say,  “French Polynesia” or “Bora Bora” or “Moorea”. The part of French Polynesia known as the Society Islands was most special to her.  


Cook's Bay, Moorea
Bora Bora
She would say the spectacular beauty of the islands themselves, Moorea in particular. She loved the snorkeling around some wonderful reefs. 


Reef life in Bora Bora
Friends on Tahiti showed us some beautiful places and provided some wonderful meals.
Hamid and Teresa
Lunch in Papeete
Hamid, your lasagna is still the best we’ve ever had, anywhere. We had memorable times at Bloody Mary’s. There was a nice mix of traditional Polynesian culture and modern European sophistication. 



Bloody Mary's, Bora Bora
Since we were there in July during the Hiva festival  we saw great dance and drum contests over several islands. The final competition on Bastille Day, also Janet’s birthday, was marvelous.


 
 A good Polynesian drum band has to be heard to be believed, fantastic! And in the Society Islands we started to get to know some cruising people who became friends and who have been great friends ever since. We had a very memorable  time in the Society Islands.



Friends
 Question Number Two:  WERE YOU EVER SCARED?

The short answer is, “No”. We each had our fears. Janet’s was hitting something on a passage and sinking the boat. Mine was losing someone overboard, including me of course, but her or a friend mostly.  Would I have felt worse watching the boat sail off into the distance without me or searching a big sea for my lost sweetie or a good friend?
12-15 ft seas on the way to Fiji
I don’t even like to think about the latter. Very thankfully those fears were not realized. There were “interesting” moments. A midnight, preventer breaking, slam jibe got my attention once.  As in flying,  weather is the big killer. These days weather forecasting and enroute information is so greatly improved that if one plays by the rules the chances of getting in serious trouble are greatly reduced. We had some rough passages but the boat was very confidence inspiring and proved to be a great dry, safe and seaworthy machine. 

Passage to Opua
We used Commander’s Weather on all the long passages, and another Australian forecaster as well on the passage down to New Zealand from Tonga. Commanders was always good and gave us confidence in our own analysis of the grib files and other info available by HF radio. So, having been severely scared a few times in other activities and finding that to be greatly overrated as an experience, I’m very happy to relate we were never really scared on this trip.
South Pacific sunset
I’m still thinking over this experience and with a little luck I’ll be thinking it over for a long time. The next post will try to summarize some of those thoughts and try to communicate some ideas that might be helpful to someone interested in this kind of experience for themselves.

Love to all,
Bill & JanetSV Airstream

PS: And yes, one more time, the boat is listed at: http://nwyachtnet.com/boat-details/?BoatID=6059783