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Old 16-06-2010, 20:00   #1
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Can You Still Find Magical Encounters as You Cruise

When I last had a quick glance at one of the cruising cost threads I saw a forum viewers question that I can not locate again. It was: is it still possible to have the kind of magic encounters cruisers wrote about two or three decades ago.

Since we were out there four decades ago and through all the decades since, I thought I'd add a comment. The answer is yes. But it is a bit harder, not due to local folks being less welcoming, but due to the cruising fleet being bigger and more active together. Case in point, last year when we sailed through the Pacific, we did go to out of the way places and have fine encounters. But we also had an interesting experience in Tonga amidst a cruising fleet of 100 plus yachts.

We had been in Tonga 23 years previously (about 30 overseas yachts were visiting the Vavau group at the same time as us back then) and got adopted by a Tongan family, I mean really adopted. When we arrived this time my God-daughter Linlarry (pronounced Linlauree) who was reportedly conceived on our boat, was there to make sure we were well entertained. She and her family asked us to invite our friends up for Sunday church and a special dinner at her home 5 miles from Neiafu. I invited couples from five different cruising yachts. Four had previous plans to go diving or picnicing with other cruisers. One family cancelled other plans to join us. Wonderful day, nice meal but best of all, the family who joined us found themselves fully involved with the local Tongan community. Their son went to school with Linlarry's younger cousins, the whole family was invited to spend time in several different homes, shared weaving lessons, took their new Tongan friends sailing and left laden with tapa and special baskets.

We interviewed several families who were on their first voyage as we sailed through the islands last year and asked, What were the things you worried about before you left that never happened. After writing about those fears we asked what special advise they would give to future cruisers. Here is the list and our conclusion - to save time I have cut and pasted it from our Capable Cruiser,

Here’s the list:
• Do it sooner rather than later.
• Quit talking and get out here!
• Know your boat, test your gear.
• Buy the best dinghy you can afford.
• Have confidence in your boat.
• Don’t overload your boat or you will feel cramped and uncomfortable.
Weather will become your life; study and learn about it.
• Once you have prepared thoroughly, relax and enjoy it all.
• Keep a realistic perspective on being out here—far from family, far from easily available materials, equipment, and skilled labor.
• Be mentally prepared for being at sea a long time. “It was better than I thought it would be,” said one cruiser.
• Slow down!
• Learn a few words of the local language. Even saying hello, thank you, and good-bye can open new worlds to you.
• Be wary of the herd mentality. Remember that it’s your dream, your itinerary, and ultimately your decision.
• Get away from other yachties so you experience the local culture.

The last two suggestions are possibly the hardest ones to put into practice. As our three-week stay at the marina in Apia showed us once again, the cruisers you meet “out there” can be a fascinating group of people. Someone will always be coming up with an activity to add to the day’s entertainment—be it a potluck, a diving expedition, a night on the town, or an evening of sharing stories and singing shanties or old favorites. Over the years, Larry and I have often written, “Go small, go simple, but go now!” To that, we both would like to add: “Do anything necessary to split your shore time 50/50 between getting to know local people and enjoying the company of other cruisers.” No matter how fine your voyaging turns out to be, if you don’t occasionally break away from your newfound cruising friends, you could look back later and find that there was one thing you didn’t worry about that did actually happen. You could come to realize that the only Polynesian people with whom you had contact were customs and immigration officials and vendors at the local marketplace.

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Old 16-06-2010, 21:34   #2
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Hello Lin, and welcome to CF. As it happens I'm rereading Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew after twenty years with close attention. Then I was just wishing but have recently bought a boat and am about to embark on a new path afloat, so I now need your clear distilled experience. It should not escape your attention, though, that you and Larry bear much of the responsibilty for so many being out there crowding all the anchorages.

I am glad to hear you confirm the continuing possibility of the amazing and wonderful for cruisers who venture away from the herd. I can't find my old copies of the books you two have penned, so I suppose I'll have to buy new copies. Glad to have you participating here and hope you can stay about or pop in often. Fair winds. Jon

"The nature of the universe is such that ends can never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end." ---Aldous Huxley
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Old 16-06-2010, 21:41   #3
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The "magical experiences" are still out there to be found. But the nature of them may have changed over the decades. Sometimes significantly.
- - In parts of the world where modern communications and satellite TV have not reached the experiences you mention still occur. But time and history only travels in one direction and "recapturing" or expecting the world to be as it was decades ago is very difficult if not impossible after modern technologies and communications get a toe-hold on a culture.
- - In some of the Pacific certain islands have legally "opted" to block visits by "outsiders" and their technologies in an attempt to hold on to their heritage way of life. But in most of the world technology has penetrated into cultures with the results of rapidly increasing populations caused by more food and health care and more desire/lust for modern "toys" of western civilization mainly driven by mass marketing on TV. Modern technology also means less jobs for the young people.
- - All of this doesn't reduce the opportunities for those "magical experiences" it just changes them. The one biggest change in the Caribbean is the loss of the ability to "get away from the herd" and find your "one particular harbor." Now, staying with the "herd" is a prudent safety/survival strategy.
- - So new "magical moments" are found in group encounters, explorations and associated social interactions. They are still "magical" just different from your parents or grandparents moments.
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Old 16-06-2010, 22:08   #4
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Thanks for that post Lin, fantastic input. I have enjoyed your books and now have discovered your great website.
Mrs. Rain Dog~Ocean Girl
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Old 17-06-2010, 00:40   #5
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We are still learning how to cruise and I think each year we are getting more relaxed. After 2 years we still get a bit worried by some locals when they are friendly: "What do they want? Has their brother got a carpet shop? Are they selling souvenirs? Is the pop over to Church really an excuse for a 4 hour harangue in a foreign language(actually happened to us once)?"

We have had some wonderful times with locals but, like navigating, its a learned art. In our home town of Sydney you don't just go talk to strangers. If someone smiles at you on the bus they probably want a bum pinch or maybe a tad loopy.

So chuck us on a boat and cast the lines off and *zap* we're expected to suddenly forget all the social norms (social defences?) built up over decades and go up to strangers on the street and say "Gidday".

Even other cruisers can be a real education in meeting people. Often in our previous lives at home many of our friends are in the same or similar industry, similar socioeconomic background, similar suburb and similar age group.
Come out cruising and bump into some 25 year older irascible bloke you'd never have previously met, let alone become friends with. So now we have a vastly expanded range of types of people we know from all walks of life with the common thread of cruising, and some, but not so many, local people from countries visited.

I'm sure cruising has changed over the decades and in years far removed the whole village may have gathered on the beach to watch a boat drop the pick.
Nowadays it may well be more difficult to meet locals without any agenda, but as we become better at cruising I think we are becoming better at friendships.

When we were in Vava'u 2 years ago we went to a couple of local Tongan Feasts. Yes we had to pay for them, but they were assisting the villages, not like big tourism ventures. It gave us a better look into their lives and we were able to talk to them for an evening. No we didn't become friends with any locals there. However we could as we get better at it.

Though we can't always become friends instantly we can make sure we get our tourism dollars to the village level, or to the small entrepreneur instead of the multi-national.

The tourist borchure idea of being invited to wedding (Not the: "if you supply money for the goat" scam!) isn't really happening often. But we have had better luck inviting locals onto Sea Life for a cupt of tea, coffee and sometimes dinner.

In 10 years time we will have this cruising life down pat

Notes on a Circumnavigation.

Somalia Pirates and our Convoy
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Old 17-06-2010, 02:06   #6
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I learned who you were on a trip down the West Coasts of the US and Mexico all those decades ago. You were about 2 weeks ahead of us.
Everywhere we went we were told "anchor over there, it's the right place coz that's where Lin and Larry anchored" or "do it like this - it's how Lin and Larry did it".
Now while I'm sure you and your husband are probably very nice people, I grew to dislike you intensely.
It finally came to and end after Cabo - I believe you continued south while we went into the Sea of Cortez for a year.
Now all those decades later I can see your island from my office, maybe we'll meet up some day.

Interesting question, but I feel there has been a much bigger change in the cruising population itself - more money, bigger boats, part time cruisers, and sadly lower standards of ability and seamanship. (that should fire things up).

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Old 17-06-2010, 02:58   #7
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Hello Lin and welcome to CF.

The important thing about finding the “magic” in magical encounters is that you have to in fact… believe!

I have always believed in the innate goodness of people who live a simple fisherman’s life, untouched by the ambitious disease of 5th Avenue marketing.

With music, children and the sea as the universal bond between cruisers and locals, if you can still carry that simple magical belief in others… you will find it.
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Old 17-06-2010, 03:55   #8
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Thanks for another inspirational thread.

Lin may have been inspired by:
Where Has the Cruising Counter-Culture Gone - Is It Too Late?
Gord May
"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 17-06-2010, 04:13   #9
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What is certainly too late is cruiser freebies. Nic is reading a book of the 1970 cruise of SeaTramps by Sheila Martin.
She recalls getting free marina berths in a number of places.... we were asked for 52 Euros per night here.
They traded sea shells for a profit between countries etc

So, sure some of that type of cruising magic has gone. However magic can come in other ways. Unlike Dana's thought that many cruisiers are of a lower standard in Nav, I disagree and think that GPS and plotters along with the internet to check others voyages, have opened the way to far more people to get into more difficult anchorages and visit areas likely to have been missed 30 or 40 years ago.
What the intrepid few were able to do and have magic encounters is now open to many many more to have their own, different, magic encounters.

Notes on a Circumnavigation.

Somalia Pirates and our Convoy
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Old 17-06-2010, 04:39   #10
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I hate to say this, but you sound like a product of a cynical generation.

I know from reading a lot of your postings that you are out there living the dream and enjoying it, top marks (no pun intended) I hope you continue to enjoy it.

We cruised for 5 years and one of the friendliest places we encountered was your home town, Sydney. Met and enjoyed new people, in fact we left Sydney and sailed further north, decided we needed to see the start of a Sydney/Hobart yacht race and turned around and went back for a further 2 months. Ended up watching the start of the race from the Army camp on the hedlands after being invited there by someone we met on the harbour in their yacht.

What I am trying to get at is, "magic" is everywhere, "magic" is an attitude. Everytime we get onto our yacht and go for a sail, it is "magic."

We've been sailing for over 40 years and I hope the "magic" never wers off, in fact, I know it won't.
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Old 17-06-2010, 04:54   #11
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I appreciate Lin's view and I'm glad she took the time to make a post on CF. She brought up many good points and since my wife and I are planning on heading to the South Pacific next year, I'm going make it a point to embrace some of the ideas she offered.

However, cruising is a lifestyle and like all lifestyles, can have different and unique appeals to different people. For some, the natural history and geography are the highlight of a circumnavigation while for others the bonds they make with other cruisers will be what they cherish most in their travels. I once read an interview with Jimmy Cornell who said he enjoyed passage-making the most and was less interested in the destinations.

I suggest: Whatever floats your boat. If those on a cruising boat just want to stay in marinas and eat foods with which they're most familiar, who am I to criticize? Some prefer to sail to the most remote of places and I would be reluctant to say that they're better cruisers, just different. Furthermore, cruising is not for everybody and I personally know more than a few people who have bought a boat, outfitted it properly, gone cruising and hated it. Because of this, I attempt to be cautious in my encouragement of those considering the cruising lifestyle. Often though, my attempts fail as I can be pretty enthusiastic!

I wish fair winds and calm seas to all.
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Old 17-06-2010, 05:06   #12
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I'm always glad to read a happy and joy thread! Seems we read a lot about problems and hardships and pass over all the good stuff.

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Old 17-06-2010, 05:07   #13
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Originally Posted by Get-a-Life View Post

I hate to say this, but you sound like a product of a cynical generation.

We cruised for 5 years and one of the friendliest places we encountered was your home town, Sydney. .
Of course we are a product of a cynical generation. Thats what I am driving at.
One of the places I have found most friendly was New York! But people say thats the worst in the world and they do that "I don't want to be involved" caper.
I walked down Harlem in the early 90's with 2 other backpackers and they were terrified, but we were met with open arms by the locals. I accidently walked into a bar I should'nt have been in- and only realised when the crowd at the bar opened and I got served first in a dead silence, then when people heard my accent its was all fine and I didn't get killed (It was a black, gay leather bar!).

But yes, the interveining 20 years of cynical generation has got in and taken root!

Yes, you are right magic is everwhere. and we find it everyday. But I, and Nicolle are still human and we are still learing after these 2 years how to cruise.


Notes on a Circumnavigation.

Somalia Pirates and our Convoy
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