#63 – The Crew Quandary

Gwen at the helm, owner on the beanbag

When a long passage looms, many cruisers begin thinking about whether or not to take on crew to help. What pops promptly into our heads are the shorter watches that having extra crew enables. How seductive that idea of lying abed for more than two hours at a stretch! Maybe, even… together?! Uh, huh! But like most great ideas, taking crew aboard your boat is an issue with many facets worth considering closely. And the same is true for those crewing.

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#62 - Dabbling in a Different League

Lifestyles Aboard Three Big Boats

It has come as a bit of shock to Don and me that our style of cruising aboard Tackless II might rank as rather middle class these days. When I do Women and Cruising boat-show seminars and stand with Pam Wall and Kathy Parsons, Pam has always represented older-style, purist cruising, Kathy a middle ground, and I the relatively cushy, gadgety way.

But these days it seems there is an increasingly sizable “upper class” of cruising, folks who’ve sunk a lot of money into really nice boats, state-of-the-art equipment, and lots of little luxuries. I’m not talking about the mega-yacht circle, the ones with professional crews, but folks who are making the same course and weather decisions, pulling the same lines and changing the same oil as the rest of us, just doing so with more comfort and élan…and electric winches! » Read full column

#61 - One Hull or Two?

“So? Whaddya think?”

Everybody’s asking us. They want to know what we — 20+ year veterans of monohulls — think about our first eight-week catamaran experience cruising aboard a 50 foot cat? Some anticipate utter conversion, some expect loyalty, others could care less about the boat and want to hear about the trip. » Read full column

#60 - Bedding

Around the cockpit table during a potluck among boats awaiting the start of the Sail Indonesia Rally in Darwin the topic of bedding came up. Robin of the American Voyage 44 cat Endangered Species was explaining to Michelle of the Aussie 53′ cat Thor how she’d solved her preference for a softer mattress when Rick preferred firm. “Ashore we had a waterbed, and when we moved aboard, we dismantled it for the surrounding collar and filled it with two replacement air mattresses that I finagled from the Sleep Number people.”

I was surprised. I had never heard of air mattresses on a boat. I’ve been to enough boat shows to know that there are plenty of entrepreneurs doing their best to market mattress upgrades and customized bedding to sailors, but I also remember when outfitting my first boat that mattress and sheet issues were way down the list of priorities.

But should they be? » Read full column

#59 - Facing Fears

When we do our Women and Cruising seminars, the most unasked questions in the room are about fears.

Even in the companionable community of other cruising women, few people want to admit that they are afraid. And so concerns remain unasked and unaddressed, lurking behind less threatening topics like communications back home, finances, or provisioning.

A while back, we did our first online Women and Cruising webinar* for SevenSeasU.com the online cruising university organized by Seven Seas Cruising Association. While Kathy Parsons, Pam Wall and I addressed a question list of typical topics submitted by the attendees, over in the attendee chat box, perhaps enabled by the anonymity of the Internet classroom, someone typed, “Is anyone else afraid?” While we continued to talk about…what was it?…doing laundry, perhaps?…we watched as instant chats began flying back and forth — a flood of pent-up anxiety released.

We women have particularly capable imaginations. » Read full column

#58 – Guidelines for a Great Cruising Cockpit

Perhaps the most important – yet under-appreciated – space on your boat is the cockpit.

Our favorite moments take place here: greeting the sunrise with coffee and a good book, partying at happy hour with friends, enjoying dinner in the open air, sitting snug while a squall blows through, or snoozing in cool night breezes.

On a cruising boat, of course, the cockpit is also the action station, the place where we spend hours keeping watch and guiding our boat safely through reefs, channels, or over open sea. » Read full column

#57 – The Knack of Befriending Locals

Yvonne of AUSTRALIA 31 with a Cuban child
When we outfit a cruising boat to sail away from home, our motivation is not primarily the meeting of other folks just like ourselves, but, on the contrary, to experience the differences the world has to offer. Such experience isn’t just about sightseeing, or admiring the artifacts of a culture, or purchasing souvenirs, but connecting to the people who live it.

Thus, as easy and wonderful as the making of friendships is with other cruisers, it’s a sad thing if it begins to edge out the inclination and opportunity to build friendships with local people.

Unfortunately, many cruisers do opt to hang back in the comfort zone of cruiser circles. They rationalize such self-limiting behavior as not wanting to be intrusive or as wariness about the security of their floating personal space. I know because I myself struggled with these feelings.

But when you see other cruisers invited on spearfishing trips with local fisherman, on long guided hikes to secret waterfalls, or included in unique family celebrations like Sunday dinner, holidays, festivals and weddings, you have to ask yourself, do these folks have some special knack for bridging those invisible boundaries between strangers, or do I need to change my thinking? » Read full column

#56 – Cruising Friendships, Part Two – Keeping Track!

The ease with which we meet fellow cruisers and the speed with which we befriend them is counterbalanced to some extent by the difficulty of keeping track of them all.

On the one hand there is the memory game of sorting out and remembering all the folks you just met at a potluck, while on the other is the challenge of staying connected to the ones you’ve become close to when ways part.

Gone are the usual criteria by which we customarily organize acquaintances: their address, phone number, workplace,… their LAST NAME!

Instead we must learn to think of them by first names, boat names, boat type, homeport, radio call signs and – the most amorphous of criteria – their planned itinerary. Itinerary matters, because we cruisers do factor into the investment of attention we’re willing to give a new friendship the likelihood of our seeing them again.

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#55 – Cruising Friendships, Part One

Friends visiting by dinghy

There’s a camp song that goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” If there’s treasure to be found in cruising, most would agree it’s the friendships we make.

To someone still dockside, about to desert land-based friendships built over many years, the finding, making, and maintaining of worthwhile friendships while wandering the world’s oceans must seem a bewildering prospect.

Not only does it happen, but many of us might reverse the rhyme. In the cruising world, it’s the new friendships that have both the sparkle and durability of gold, while old ones risk tarnish. » Read full column

#54 – The Pet Quandary

Jelly the Cat sailing on s/v Nine of Cups - Photo from Marcie Lynn's website www.nineofcups.comWhether it’s the love they give us or the love they allow us to give them, pets are important to many people.

They welcome us home; they watch out for intruders; they calm us with a wag, a purr or a squawk. They turn us outward when we are feeling inward, warm our hearts with their devotion, and make us laugh with entertaining foolishnesses. They do all this – and they will do it all whether on land or afloat – in simple exchange for our commitment to take care of them.

Taking care of pets is a responsibility that comes with many obligations. We must provide food and water, exercise, and pooping opportunities. We must maintain check-ups, grooming, and flea and heart worm treatments, and get licenses, ID chips, and vaccinations. For pet-lovers, these obligations are a fair trade for all we receive in return.
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