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Old 30-03-2006, 20:06   #1
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My Reality Checked?

Ok, so I have been considering the dream of sailing the south pacific. Living day to day, no pressure, no worries, just the pleasure gained from visiting and exploring many interesting locations at a leisurely pace.. I have not resolved much of the details yet, but my general desire is a trip that would journey through the south pacific islands and end in Australia. Then from Australia back through the islands along a different path. All this would take place aboard a 40+ foot Catamaran.

Well, so goes the dream anyway. But as I have been reading and thinking through this, some reality is creeping in that is causing some apprehension.
So I was hoping to get some feedback on these. Now don't get me wrong, some of these just may be the price of the adventure, but I would like to understand if my apprehension is justified.

1. When you consider the distance of the overall trip and even the distance of going from one island to another, or from CA or FL to the first island, it seems that there will be times when you are sailing for weeks without sighting any land or anyone or anything. This will be Ok for a while, but I can't help but wonder if this would become tedious and boring after a while .... to where the quarters of the Catamaran become more of a prison than an escape. I keep making the analogy in my mind that the catamaran is equivalent to a motor home. Both are there to act as transportation. With a motor home, you can stop and take a look around and take a break....not necessarily when sailing.

2. Now that I'm in my 40's I find I have no tolerance for cold. So as I envision this trip, I plan to sail only when and where it is warm. Hence I would tend to stay within 25 degrees of the equator. I would also want to plan the trip so that I'm cruising at times of the year when the weather is good.... very good. I'm very interested in avoiding bad weather. How practical is this? Can a trip be planned in both directions that takes me out of the path of bad weather? For example, I naively feel that I could sail to Australia in the first part of spring and summer and return end of summer early fall. Not sure that this is enough time or even the right window.

3. After a while do all islands look the same? Do you get tired of snorkeling, beach combing, exploring, etc.

4. Is it really safe to stop at a random island and go for a hike?

5. What about sailing at night...or just being out on the sea at night. In a Motor home, you can get off the road and safely sleep through the night. I don't see this happening while sailing. It seems you just can't stop and drop anchor. If someone always must be up and on watch, this is really going to take a physical toll, especially if there is just two on board. And if there is just two on board, then your schedules will become off, with one sleeping during the day and the other by night.

6. Can you trust the technology available to solve #5? For example, auto-pilot, radar, GPS. weather systems, collision avoidance, Lighting/Strobes?

7. Is it fairly reasonable to expect that your not more than a day or two from finding a port where supplies can be had reasonably and safely, at generally any point along the way.

8. My wife is a diabetic. She needs medical supplies every month or so. Can we have her supplies mailed to locations along the way and plan to pick them up? Or can we find medical supplies at various ports?

9. Can I really have internet access reliably and affordably at sea?

10. I'm not much interested in people or culture. Part of my goal is to escape from people, crowds, and all that goes with it. I'm generally not interested in meeting new people. Which is odd, because I'm on many forums of all kinds. But I guess for me itís more about information exchange than building relationships. Don't get me wrong; I get along with people well. I'm just not interested in them. Perhaps this trip will corect this in me. Given this.......any comments?

I suppose each of these is a thread onto itself and I tried to make each short given the length of it all. All feedback appreciated!

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Old 30-03-2006, 20:33   #2
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Sailing at night

I'm only qualified to answer this one as I don't do long distance cruises. I have never figured out why people are so worried about sailing at night, yet they will cruise along in a car at 85 mph with a heavy rain. I would say sailing at night is safer than driving a car at night.

The challenge isn't that big a deal as most nights you do have some vision, there are few really "black" nights, but they do occur. Sailing at night in the deep blue sea is safer than coastal cruising at night, though it too is relatively safe; again safer than a car.

Make sure you know what tug lights are like, especially when towing. Learn to recognize navigational lights, and keep a cheat sheet of navigational lights handy.

My favourite time to sail is on a beautiful evening, about two in the morning with a full moon; love it.

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Old 30-03-2006, 20:41   #3
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My unqualified opinion"

1. There is no "right" answer to this will depend on you - myabe you will get bored, maybe you will find the challenge is self-sustaining - maybe take a 6 week cruise and see how that works for ya?

2. It is definitely possible to make the trip without exposing yourself to cold weather. However, it is not as simple as merely trying to avoid "winter" (and remember, winter in Australia is summer in USA). For example, it is currently cyclone season in Northern Australia - a time when you really don't want to be there! So, yes, it is possible, but will ned plenty of homework & planning

3. Again, this will depend on you. I once travelled for 3 years, living out of a rucsac, and I didn't ever get bored, but maybe you will - only one way to find out really!

4. Yes, I think it is. Obviously, you need to allow for weather / tides, etc. You also need to allow for petty criminals in some places and even, possibly the potential for piracy in other places. But if you let these type of "dangers" dictate your actions, you would never step out of the door. With some planning and simple measures, I think it is safe enough.

5. Night sailing is fun, well, I enjoy it. 2-up You can just rotate watches -say 4hrs on 4 hrs off or something like that.

6. With good technology the boat will almost sail itself. These days, wit technology at reasonable price you can probably have GPS, radar and AIS radar, autopilot, weatherfax, so with reasonable forecasts, you should be able to sail "hands free" on autopilot and radars on while you sleep, away from shipping lanes anyway.

7. Yes and No. Most of the time, yes - basically, if you are within sight of land, chances are that somewhere to buy provisions is only a day or 2 away. However, between the USA and Australia are some big stretches of water that will take much longer to cross - if there is little wind, it could be weeks between ports...

8. Most places have medical facilities. You can probably carry some stocks and replenish as needed

9. Again yes and no. Once you are out to see, you are probably going to be relying on either satelite telephone, which is very expensive, or HF radio modems which is very cheap but very very slow. If you are in port, lots of marinas have wireless these days, or failing that, you can use a mobile or even just a conventional phone line or go to an internet cafe.

10. It has been my experience with travelling that even if you don't actively seek out people and cultures, you will still experience plenty of both...
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Old 30-03-2006, 21:04   #4
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Hi Limpet,

Its good to hear about your dreams and equally good for you to ask such questions before you pack up and go.

It sounds to me that you are aiming to escape to a world of solitude - which of course sailing could be - if thats what you want. We are the opposite. Sailing for us is a great way of meeting lots of new pals and so far, all having sailing in common, we seem to meet lots of nice people.

1. A yacht is not unlike a camper van and if you have nothing to do, one could indeed get bored. But just like the camper, the yacht needs maintenance so we find we fill our days OK when underway with chores. Add in some actual hands on sailing plus a love of books and we sometimes wonder where the day has gone.

2. Warm weather is not always windy weather and I personally find light wind hot days a real pain. You could certainly circumnavigate the Pacific in one year - but you'd be missing a lot en-route.

3. I'd agree. We find it is the different people, and places ashore, that add the variety needed.

4. Yes. You'll make your own judgements on each place you end up, and it is silly to take undue risks. But most of the islands you envisage hitting are 100% safe.

5. Like rns48 I too love night sailing. Single handing over such a distance will take some planning to ensure you are not on the major passage routes to minimise the risk of hitting another vesselwhilst you get a nap - but it will be tiring and debilitating. Double handed would be much better if you have the right sailing partner. Yes - one operates usually 3 or 4 hour overnight shifts.

6. Yes you can trust it 99% of the time. But it is well worth developing base navigational and meteorological skills to fall back on.

7. No its not reasonable. Check out a chart and you'll see some long legs twix island groups.

8. I suspect it might be easier to stock up well before you go, plus maybe pre-organise a couple of further pick up points at major ports - as opposed to trying to collect every month or so.

9. Not unless you want to spend a fortune on sat coms. Email via a SSB radio is well affordable - but forget web browsing etc.

10. Any comments? I'd seriously question doing such a long trip if you do not enjoy meeting new people or exploring new cultures. If its solitude you want in warm weather, picking one remote island to stay on might be more appropriate, and certainly less risky / expensive than the trip.

Either way, hope you fulfil your dreams.

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Old 31-03-2006, 06:07   #5
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The comparison you made to sailing vs traveling in an RV is much more comparible than you might think. My wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to travel the country in our 25' motorhome a few years back and I think I can realte that experience rather well to sailing. The thought that you can stop the RV and take a nap isn't that much different. RSN also hit the nail on the head when he related the safety of sailing at night to the safety of traveling in an RV at night. My wife and I changed transportaion methods and sold the motorhome and purchased our Bristol 32, we had some of the same reservations that you have with safety, however, it's relative to the traveling you do. We made ourselves feel so much better about the sailing when we put the risks of RV'ing across the country in perspective. Running the RV across country into the wee hours of the night, IMO, is MUCH more risky than cruising the open water. There are some obvious precautions that can be taken but when all is said and done, I would rather be out in the water than traveling the highways at 2:00am. Since we have been driving for so long, we are lulled into a false sense of how safe driving is. IT ISN'T.
Crusing for long periods of time on open water may or may not be your cup of tea, but I think it is much more relaxing than doing a 12 hour day on the road. Get yourself a good CARD system and set up a watch schedule that only places you on deck for 2 hours each in the latest hours of the night.
You sound alike like myself in the manner that I look for the tranquility of being alone, away from the crowds. I have never has an issue with meeting people or getting along but would much rather be alone with my wife off some tropical island. Trust me when I tell you you won't go any more stir crazy on a long pasage than you would crossing the country in an RV! Reading, writing, sketching, talking, painting, dophins, music, whales and spectacular sunsets will all pass that time quickly and happily.

Best of luck

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Old 31-03-2006, 07:03   #6
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I too agree with what the others have said.

Being an ex- US Navy sailor. I had the privilage of sailing on a big ship. But while I was onboard those warships. I made notes to myself about night time ship movements.

Most nights. Even when there is hardly a quarter moon. You can still see things off in the far distance at night. And On a night when there is a full moon. The moonlight pretty much lights up the dark alot more. And very romantic for the ladies & guys who love making out under the moonlight?

I wouldn't stress myself too much over the night time issue too much. Things can be very easliy worked out. Just like what the others before me had mentioned already.

"Those who desire to give up Freedom in order to gain security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." - Benjamin Franklin
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Old 31-03-2006, 07:41   #7
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Sailing at night

I guess my one point about sailing at night is that there would be a temptation to "stop" where you are and sleep through the night, or let the boat's systems take over and let the ship sail though the night while you sleep. Where as in a motor home, you can pull over at the neareast walmart and spend the night. But there is no letting the cruise control take you down the highway at night while you sleep in the back

I really appreciate the responses so far, they are much more positive than I was expecting.
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Old 01-04-2006, 08:15   #8
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I think you've had your questions answered, but I would caution against leaving the boat on "cruise control" while everyone on board's in bed. First the international collision regulations require that you maintain a lookout at all times - the gizmos can help, but can't replace a watchkeeper. Secondly, no equipment is foolproof, or will necessarily recognize all dangers, such as flotsam (tree trunks, containers, etc.) - would you really want to trust your life to a radar alarm? If sailing two-handed over long distances seems too onerous, you can always consider taking on crew for the passage - friends or family; you can ask around sailing clubs; or you can peruse the "crew wanted listings" in the various forums.
If you stick with two-handed, then I recommend you work out a watch rotation that is comfortable for both persons. Some people are night owls, some are early risers, so do what works for you. If you find you're both beat and you want to pull into Walmart to sleep, then do that (figuratively speaking) - heave to or set a sea-anchor, hoist a ball, put on your anchor lights, set the radar alarms and go to sleep. It doesn't guarantee you won't get run down, but it minimizes the danger, and you won't run into anything.
Long periods at sea don't suit everyone. It's best to have a hobby or pass-time that you can fall back on when you get bored. Doing chores keeps you preoccupied for only so long. If you want to see if you'll like it before you sink time and money into a boat, maybe you should consider a bareboat charter first.
Good luck with the dream and let us know how it's coming along.

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Old 01-04-2006, 13:42   #9
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I suppose the other way I could have gone about this thread is to ask about the dirty little secrets...the problems with cruising that no one likes to talk about. So what are they....I'm sure there are plenty?
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Old 01-04-2006, 19:13   #10
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I find sailing at night easier, and I know I am not the only sailor to have said this. It makes the senses more acute (imho) and there's no sun glare to fatigue you. There's also a clarity about night sailing. It's like all the extraneous stimuli have dropped away and you can concentrate only what's important.

AND, those night skies! It's like raising the temperature on the proverbial boiling frog, but most of us have hardly noticed how our night skies have disappeared in the last few decades. They've fallen victim to the kleiglights of Wal Marts and Supermax prisons and our very own "home insecurity lights." Being able to see the "seasons" pass overhead in the course of an overnight trick at the helm is a real treat. If you don't know the constellations it's a great time to learn them. Otherwise, if you're like me - a lifelong amateur astronomer - it's like getting reaquainted with old friends.

BTW, a slightly off topic pitch here only because I mention astronomy: There are initiatives in several cities - most led by a group called the International Dark Sky association - to restrict or shield flood lights. Contrary to popular belief, well-lit areas are NOT a deterent to crime - in fact, there's evidence that they actually increase crime. The bad guys usually don't steal (or assault) what (who) they can't see. On the other hand, we've all heard the famous cases of rapes that occur at 2am in mega-store parking lots. Besides "taking back the night sky" the other benefit is saving energy and saving wildlife. Birds in particular are very sensitive to disruptions in migratory and fertility patterns that are tied to the sun and seasons. Those are disrupted by bright lights.
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:14   #11
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While searching through the manuals etc left aboard by the previous owner I came upon his deck log from another boat he had owned - I believe an Endeavour 37. Keep in mind that this man was / is a professional sailor who has owned many boats and circumnavigated twice.

Log entries from 1984:
"Enroute Eluthra in a lousy following swell that rolls us unmercifully. We have not slept in the past 3 days due to the weather - oh how sleep is such a precious thing. I nodded off tonight but was thrown across the cockpit when a wave put us on our beam ends and held us there for an eternity. [Wife] is completely exhausted and can no longer stand watch."

On the positive side, his later entries after arrival return to "the dream" conditions that we all strive to maintain in our minds while head down in the bilge getting seasick while changing filters or something.

This was quite an interesting read that gave me pause.....

Don't try this in an RV
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Old 16-04-2006, 22:21   #12
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Originally Posted by Limpet
I suppose the other way I could have gone about this thread is to ask about the dirty little secrets...the problems with cruising that no one likes to talk about. So what are they....I'm sure there are plenty?
I can tell you about a couple. One is the pressure on a relationship that may occur from being confined on a small vessel for an extended time. It is one major difference from the RV analogy-you can't just get off and take a walk when you may need to.
Another one is the tendency some people have to overindulge in the party lifestyle that seems to coincide with the cruising lifestyle. Even if you don't indulge while underway, which is a necessity in my book, when you reach that shangrila there can be a real temptation to "unwind" to excess.
Not that I have ever had either of these problems...

"Are we there yet?"
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