Livia from s/v Esrtellita 5.01b is the brains behind the Interview With a Cruiser website that, hopefully some of you have linked to using the gizmo on the right hand side of this blog. Ever responsive to the requests of her readrs, she’s started a new site with interviews with cruisers who are just getting started. The site is called Newly Salted and she asked if we’d like to contribute. Yeah, like I’m going to pass up a chance to blather on and on about stuff. So, here’s a sneak preview of our “Newly Salted” interview.
We are Stephen and Lulu Yoder. We sail a 1976 Westsail 28 which we’ve named Siempre Sabado (“Always Saturday” in Spanish) to celebrate what was our favorite day of the week during the years that we had to work for a living. We are now retired and can do pretty much whatever we want each day, just like we used to on Saturdays. Our hailing port is Silverton, Oregon, USA although there are no navigable waters anywhere close to Silverton. It’s more an homage to the place we lived, worked, and raised our children for 25 years. A nice little town. We have only just started our cruising life, having only been away from our former home port of Newport, Oregon since Late July, 2010. Since then we have cruised down the coasts of Oregon and California and the Pacific coast of Baja California. We are currently anchored in La Paz, BCS, Mexico. Please feel free to follow our blog at www.yodersafloat.blogspot.com. We welcome e-mails as well as comments (using the “comments” feature on the blog). Our e-mail address can be found on our website.
1.) Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting cruising?
Stephen: I wouldn’t put off the start of a cruise to get it but I’m wishing now that I had a wind generator to supplement our solar cells. Unless you have a really good way of pointing your solar panels at the sun, at the right angle and can adjust it many times a day, you just can’t get what they’re capable of putting out. And, at anchor, since the boat keeps swinging around, keeping the panels oriented for the best return all the time is pretty much impossible. On the other hand, the wind does seem to blow a lot.
Lulu: Not Me… I’m very happy with our boat as is. Of course I’m not the one that knows about all of the stuff that’s available. Maybe that’s good.
2.) What do you miss about living on land?
Lulu: Summer in the Silverton Hills, spending my days outside in the yard and surrounding woods.
Stephen: Nothing really. Oh, maybe my woodworking tools and my shop once in awhile, but only so I can make stuff for the boat. Granted, it’s only been 6 months but I honestly don’t really miss anything about living on land.
3.) In your first year of cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
Stephen: Before we actually started our cruise, we lived on the boat, without a car, for a year. Basically cruising without going anywhere (some would argue we’ve been in La Paz long enough to qualify for that description again). The hardest transition during the living aboard time and the actual cruising time was pretty much the same: Our living space shrunk from 5 acres to 28′. Huge transition and difficult although we try to keep it as easy as we can by trying to keep each others’ needs in mind. The other tough transition is getting used to how long it takes to get the most mundane things done. Grocery shopping that used to take us a couple hours (including driving to the store and back home again) now takes all day. And we still have to go back the next day to get the stuff we couldn’t carry the first day. And, since we’ve been in Mexico, there’s also the difficulty of just finding what you’re looking for and not being sure whether or not it even exists here.
Lulu: Being anxious a lot. Not scared so much as not having the experience to know what is likely to happen in many circumstances and therefore being anxious in anticipation.
4.) How did you (or did you) gain offshore experience prior to leaving?
Lulu: We didn’t have much… A 2 week trip on a friends boat and bringing our own boat from Anacortes, WA to Newport ,OR. It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to keep it from being a scary “unknown”.
Stephen: Basically, we didn’t. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We went on a trip with friends, on their sailboat, from Astoria, Oregon to Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. That was pretty much it. After that, we brought Siempre Sabado down the coast from Anacortes, Washington where we purchased her, to Newport, Oregon where we home-ported her. The ocean portion of that trip took two and a half days of round-the-clock motoring. We didn’t feel confident enough yet to sail the boat at that point. We lucked out and had a reasonably easy time of it, aside from the multitude of fuel filter changes that had to be made. Saltier folks than us (it didn’t take much to qualify) kept trying to get us to do a shakedown cruise before we left Newport. Just head straight out into the Pacific for 3 days and then sail back to get an idea of what works, what doesn’t and how we and the boat would handle stuff. But I always figured that, if I was sailing for 6 days, I certainly didn’t want to end up back in Newport. I’d rather gain 6 days of southing. And what’s the difference what port you pull back into if the boat is everything you have? Also, in hindsight, I’m afraid that if we had done a shakedown as recommended, and had the kind of weather we experienced when we finally left Newport, we may not have continued on with our cruising plans.
5.) How would you recommend that someone prepares to cruise?
Stephen: I can only tell you what worked well for us, and it was more of an accident than a plan. We had originally intended to leave Newport in 2009. However, as our departure date neared we still had a lot of items on our to-do list in spite of working 12-hour days to try to get everything done. Also, doing all the stuff on the list had pretty much depleted our savings. So, we decided to winter over in Newport, get the rest of the list done at a more reasonable pace and save some money. The upshot of this was that we got to get used to living on a 28′ sailboat, in usually-crappy weather, without a car. But also without the added stress of big seas, round-the-clock watches, and new places. Consequently, by the time we actually took off, living on the boat and living without a car were just what we did. No big deal. This made it much easier to deal with all the new stressors that actually untying the dock lines brought forth.
Lulu: Just decide what steps you need to take and get started. Stephen really did all of the planning and I helped with the actual projects.
6.) Tell me your favorite thing about your boat.
Lulu: I feel safe and cozy at anchor and cruising.
Stephen: You mean besides the fact that she’s the prettiest, saltiest looking thing in the harbor? My favorite thing about Siempre Sabado is that she’s a Westsail with all that includes. The most important thing it includes is the amazing feeling of safety she gives us. We got tossed around a lot in Oregon and Northern California. It was very uncomfortable, But neither of us were ever scared that the boat couldn’t handle it. We’ve talked about it so this is not just me putting words in Lulu’s mouth. We had complete confidence in the boat to get us there safely. She’s also small enough that you don’t have to be worried about being tossed across the cabin in rough seas. You just can’t get tossed very far.
7.) Tell me the least favorite thing about your boat.
Stephen: She’s so SMALL! It would really be nice to have enough room to entertain another couple comfortably, or have the occasional overnight guest, or just to have enough room so that both of us could be doing something that requires moving around the cabin at the same time. And, of course, who couldn’t use more storage? At this point in our cruising/liveaboard life, I can’t think of much of anything else I’d want to store, even if we had a bigger boat. I’d just like to be able to store what we have in a more organized manner.
Lulu: Not enough room to accommodate family for more than a day sail. We used to have lots of room for visitors and I miss that.
8.) What did you do to make your dream a reality?
Lulu: Stephen has been reading about and planning this for years and has acted financially towards making this work for us. Once that was in order we just had to accept parting with all of our stuff and did all of the many things that that entails.
Stephen: We stayed out of debt as much as possible so we could save the money to buy our boat outright rather than finance it. Of course, this is why we ended up with a smaller boat, because it’s what we could afford. Aside from that we both stuck with our jobs over the long haul so we could qualify for retirement and then cut out as many expenses as possible (sold our house, cars, no storage unit, etc.) so that our retirement income would be able to meet our expenses. I guess we basically burned our bridges so we didn’t have much choice except to turn the dream into reality.
9.) With the benefit of hindsight, what are the boat selection criteria you would use to purchase a boat for long term cruising?
Stephen: Heavily-built for that safe, secure feeling. I would look for a larger boat, but not much larger. Maybe 32 to 34 feet, no larger. A pilothouse would really be nice a lot of the time. An actual u-shaped galley area. Simple electrical/plumbing/navigation/communication infrastructure. I like the simplicity, room, design and overall class of a Westsail 32. Since they don’t come with pilot houses, I’d want a very strong removable canvas enclosure for the cockpit area. And, although not my first choices, I certainly wouldn’t turn down a Fisher 34 or a Gulf 32 (though I’m partial to double-enders). For me, it’s about safety, security, livability and aesthetics. How fast it sails or how high it points are secondary. That’s why they make diesel engines. Oh yeah, and access to the engine without infringing on the living area. Kudos go, once again, to Westsail.
Lulu: Once again, Stephen is the one who has studied all of the choices and particulars. I feel like he did a great job. Siempre Sabado is small but very well equipped and comfortable for us.
10.) What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I’ve asked you and how would you answer it?
Lulu: What is the most difficult aspect of the cruising lifestyle? It’s hard to get used to being such a rookie. In my former life I had become pretty good at most of the things I needed to do. As a cruiser I have a lot to learn and I’m not real good at some of the new things I’m learning to do, yet.
Stephen: If you had it to do over again, would you? In a heartbeat! So far, there’s really nothing about this lifestyle that I don’t like. Sure, there are uncomfortable (sometimes VERY uncomfortable) passages, but there are also really nice magical passages. I’ve liked pretty much everywhere we’ve been so far, at least for awhile. Now that we’re finally in the warm weather we were seeking, every day is so sweet, even the days that all we do is go get groceries and mule them back to the boat. I feel healthier, I’ve lost weight, I’m more relaxed, and I have more fun, more often. Yes, we’re still novices, mere beginners. Will I be singing a different tune in a year or two? Who knows? But I kinda doubt it.