Newly Salted is an interview site for cruisers who've been bumbling around for under two years and we certainly fit into that category.
Hans (who has been sailing since he was a teenager) and I (who had never been on a sail boat until I met Hans 7 years ago) bought our Island Packet Cat in January of 2008 and moved her from Massachusetts to Maryland with the intention of eventually moving aboard full time. We moved on board for what we hope is for good in January of this year and finally arrived in Florida a couple of weeks ago.
We both sold our houses so now instead of wondering when we'll have to replace a roof, or the furnace etc... we now spend our time replacing water pumps that break down just before company is due to arrive, leaky hoses that give up the ghost and saturate the contents of our lockers, and "Oh God! that's not the head I smell is it"!?
Of course when I do something I go whole hog and we ended up bringing a pit bull puppy with us.
Wilbur is our rescue project and we couldn't ask for a better companion. He learned to use his potty patch within a week and as you can see here, he also helps navigate.
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
Actually, I read so many blogs before hand that I think we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. However traveling the ICW has been an eye opener for us both. We didn't realize how much the tides affect the currents and even though we think we've tried to time ourselves perfectly it doesn't always turn out that way and we end up with the current on our nose half the time.
In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Nothing major but trying to get our mail is a pain. Even in this electronic age I'm surprised by how much paper stuff we still need. Right now my daughter sends it on when we finally know we'll be somewhere to actually receive it.
I also don't like not being able to wash my hair more often, but when we're at anchor I can't use a hair dryer. If the weather is warm it's not a big deal but if it's cold out, my hair, which is really thick, won't dry. Hans doesn't have that problem!
What mistakes did you make in your first year of cruising?
Trying to keep a schedule and biting off way more than we could chew. This summer we bought a new dinghy and motor, picked up our newly repaired sail, a new bimini, brought a dog and cat with us, and then tried to fully provision our boat. All of this in one weekend!
It was a nightmare and of course since the marina wanted us out of there we took off towing our dinghy complete with huge motor attached and ended up sailing in horrible seas!
What do you enjoy about cruising that you didn't expect to enjoy?
I'm surprised that I don't miss TV. We do have one on board but we only use it when we're at marinas. We have a digital converter and a good antenna so it's free and we can always pick up something if we want to. And not that it had a good ending (we're from Pittsburgh!) but we were able to watch the Superbowl in the comfort of our boat and the beer was cheap.
At first when things broke down it would drive Hans crazy but he's really learning a lot. He's done oil and impeller changes, replaced our water pump when it quit on us one too many times, and he loves to come up with too many ideas on how to get our dinghy up on the stern sans dinghy davits!
What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
Being at the mercy of Mother Nature. In the old days if the weather was nice, we went sailing. if it wasn't, we didn't. Now it doesn't matter whether we like it or not, we're in it. Period. Getting up in the middle of the night when a 40 knot storm blows through because we want to be prepared for the anchor to drag. Having thunder hit overhead so hard the fillings in my teeth rattle. Trying to stay warm. Trying to stay cool!!!
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true?
We were both laughing the other day about how everyone perceives our sailing life. Everyone thinks our life is like the covers of all the sailing and boating magazines. The weather is always nice, the sun is always shining, the ladies don't have filthy hair, and we lie around and drink Margaritas all day long. If the magazines showed how glamorous sailing really is; bruises, dirty fingernails, no makeup; I have a feeling boat sales would be lower than they already are!
What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?
I'd read (via Windtravelers blog) that your working systems are usually going to be 80/20. 80% working and 20% not. Very true and there have been times when 80% would have been heaven!
Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
Dinghy davits for sure!!!! There have been a lot of times I would have loved going ashore but messing with the dinghy and its motor both before and after an excursion just wasn't worth it to me. We also don't have a generator and we'd love to get a diesel one but we hate to spend money on a gasoline one right now. We have gas on board for the dinghy motor but Hans hates to have to have large quantities of gas and diesel if we can get by with just one fuel.
What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Right now we think we're okay. We learned last summer that we really don't need tons of clothes and I don't really need five pairs of sandals.
I also ditched the microwave since I don't use it. I did buy a portable ice maker for $150.00 and it's already paid for itself. It starts making ice within ten minutes and if it gets left at the dock, I'm going with it!
What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.
For now we'll continue on South and hopefully head to the Bahamas. After that we'll probably come back over and sail back up the Atlantic coast. Having a dog on board limits your destinations a bit as they are not allowed in the BVI because of rabies. But that's okay, we found out last summer when we were in the Chesapeake and Potomac that there are tons of places to see and go and I have no problem with limiting myself to this hemisphere!
What has been the scariest event you've experienced so far?
We've gone through some heavy seas that probably weren't dangerous but certainly weren't fun and a couple of times our anchor dragged but the scariest event for me was when Hans fell off the boat at 4 AM while we were at a marina. He wanted to adjust our dock lines due to the strong currents and because of the frosty surface he slipped and fell in between the boat and the dock. He also broke our rule that no one goes aboveboard at night without notifying anyone and the huge bang he made when he went in is what woke me up. I had to lower our swim ladder (we've rigged it now so that it can be lowered by someone in the water) and he was able to get out. He did end up with seven stitches in the palm of his hand and I think he got off very lucky!
When all is said and done though, living on a boat is different. It's not for the weak at heart or those who live for the Midnight Buffet (not when you're asleep by 9 PM!). Showers (and I'm not talking rain) are sometimes few and far between, and thank God I've never had a manicure so I don't have to worry about missing them. But nothing beats watching a sunset or a full moon rising... sitting in the cockpit and being surrounded by the lights of a new city...grilling a steak in a secluded anchorage and then enjoying a Bloody Mary the next morning... need I say more?