Frequently Asked Questions
Since we have made a somewhat unusual lifestyle choice, we get a lot of questions from curious people about various aspects of it. Some of this may seem basic to experienced sailors, but thats’ not whose questions we are answering. We plan to update this page from time to time as we get more questions and are able to answer them (to some we can only shrug our shoulders and say “I dunno”). So feel free to drop a question in the comments below and we’ll try our best to answer it.
- How were you able to make this happen?
We consider this the next phase of our lives. Taking an extended sailing trip has been a dream of mine for a long time. The long distance sailing bug bit hard in 1992 after a trip from NY to Bermuda with Ed Bacon on a yacht he chartered in the Caribbean. I did it again with him in 1993 to St. John USVI and was hooked. Mary wasn’t a natural born sailor but quickly realized that traveling to interesting places and meeting new people sounded pretty good. With plenty of time, we embarked on a course of learning and practice. We bought an Island Packet 31 with which we cruised around the northeast and had a great time. We loved that solid little boat. However, after chartering a number of cats, we were hooked on the spaciousness, stability and speed of a catamaran. Of course it would stay a dream if we couldn’t fund the trip. Living fairly frugally, saving and investing aggressively for 10 years has blessed us with the ability to retire and make this happen. We may go back to work some day but for now that is the last thing on our minds.
- When traveling do you stop at night?
No. We just keep going. Not too many trips require an overnight part, but occasionally one does. You always want to enter a harbor in daylight. So if a particular leg is too long to let you arrive in daylight, you’ll often leave afternoon/evening so as to arrive in the morning. Some legs are multiple days and necessarily require overnight(s). When sailing we share watches – someone is always on watch. At night, we will rotate every 3 hours. If it is just the two of us, that makes for a series of 3-hour naps. That’s why its always helpful to have others on board for longer legs.
- How will you keep in touch with family/friends on land?
We have a cell phone, satphone, email and, of course, this blog. In addition, we have VHF and SSB (single side band) radios. When near land, its easy. We’ll keep a cell phone working as long as we can. With internet access we’ll have access to email and skype. When offshore, we will use the satphone for infrequent telephone calls and routine email. We can also use the SSB for email when offshore, but it is slower. We can update the blog remotely by email as well. In the case of an emergency, we can use the satphone to call for help, the SSB radio can transmit over very long distances, the VHF is useful for close-range communication.
- What do you do for food?
We buy it and eat it. We think food is pretty readily available so we don’t plan to pack too much at a time. We have 2 dorm-sized refrigerators and one freezer. There is also plenty of storage for dry goods on board as well. So while we can store enough food to last indefinitely, we’d much rather eat fresh local food if we can find it. We also have several fishing rods but Pete has been cursed against catching fish for his entire life, so the poles may end up just as something to fiddle around with.
- What do you do for water?
We make it. We have a 12V RO watermaker that makes 400 gallons of absolutely pure water per day. This water is better than any municipal water, so we fill our tanks with the watermaker whenever we can. We do take on municipal water, though, when we know it is good, but we filter it as we put it in. We have two tanks that hold a combined ___ gallons of water. We have two hot water heaters that use the engines or electricity to keep a steady supply of hot water. Our water setup allows for frequent showers, which can be a luxury aboard a boat.
- What do you do for electricity?
We make it – in many different ways. Actually, when we are at a dock, we plug into shore power. Our boat can accept European 220v or US 110V power. We also have a large bank of heavy duty DC batteries that we live off when we are not plugged into shore power. Shore power goes to the plugs around the boat and is also converted to DC to charge the batteries. When we are away from shore power, our battery chargers also convert the batteries’ DC power to AC to power the plugs. However, most things on the boat run on DC and are powered directly by the batteries. We have a number of methods to keep the batteries charged up. In addition to shore power, they can be charged by solar panels, the alternators on either engine and a dedicated generator. We have a sophisticated computerized management system to keep tabs on it all.
- How will you deal with storms?
We’ll generally try to avoid them. Sometimes when sailing, they can’t be avoided. If that happens, we will first reef the sails – this is a process of serially reducing the size of your sails to deal with increasing wind. Unlike monohulls which sometimes can be left to themselves to ride out rough weather, a catamaran usually will require active management. The risk with a catamaran is that it gains too much speed and digs its bows into the back of a wave, causing all sorts of trouble. The goal will become to slow the boat down. For that purpose we have a drogue – a large webbed net-like thing – to tow behind the boat on a very long line. Its drag will slow the boat down and make it more manageable. We are considering whether to get a sea anchor, which you launch from the front of the boat with the idea of slowing the boat to a near stop and allowing the seas to sweep past the boat, but maybe we’ll just avoid any places where we’d need such a contraption.
- What is the process for clearing into new countries via boat?
Not too sure yet, because we haven’t done a lot of it. It generally involves bringing your passport and boat papers to the immigration and customs offices in the new harbor and obtaining a visa for the people and some kind of import/cruising permit for the boat and, perhaps, something for the dog. We’ll see.
- How is living on a boat different from living in a house?
Its much smaller. Living in NYC apartments gave us plenty of practice. Water and electricity are not limitless. You have to walk a lot more.
- Why do you want to do it?
That is a hard question to answer. The immediate goal is merely to slow down a bit after a hard charging professional life and enjoy traveling and meeting new people. We’ve both committed to give this two years and otherwise will do it until its not fun anymore.
- How long will you do it?
- Why did you choose a catamaran?
We owned a monohull for about 10 years and enjoyed it a lot. We also chartered catamarans a number of times. And while for monohull sailors a cat is a little unusual at first, you just can’t beat it for space and stability. Also, living on one level and not having to climb a ladder into and out of the boat is an advantage (especially for the dog).
- How does the Lucy do her “business”?
We get her off the boat as much as possible and she goes. We (and when I say we I mean Mary) have trained her to use a piece of astroturf that I glued into a big pan. At first she didn’t want to have anything to do with it (see photo) but now she knows the drill. We have a rope tied to it for easy ocean rinse off. *For those needing to train their dog to do this, the key is scent. Either have another dog pee on the mat or catch your dog’s pee and pour it on the mat; gross, yes, but it worked like a charm for Lucy. And makes all the difference in the world during long passages and omitting late night/early morning trips to shore.
- Do you get seasick?
Yes, sometimes. It goes away after a time but if it hits you just have to suffer through. It can be minimized or even avoided by a combination of taking care to sleep enough, not eating or drinking the wrong things before leaving and taking a little medication (we’ve found that Stugeron – not available in the US – is the best combination of effectiveness and little side effect. The scopalamine patch seems to work well too but for us has horrid side effects.
- Are you worried about pirates?
No (knock wood). We will be careful about basic thievery and criminality but real piracy is limited to areas of the world where we don’t plan to be. There are reports of cruisers being attacked in certain locations along our route, but word gets around pretty quickly and we hope to avoid places that we consider too dangerous. But you can get into trouble anywhere, so we will take precautions.
- Do you want visitors?
What, are you kidding?! Of course we do. Get in touch with us and we’ll work it out.