Snapshot: One Year on Land

4/03/2017

We answered the following questions after two months of cruising, one year of cruising, and three years of cruising. Often our answers changed, sometimes they stayed the same.

Now, we answer the same questions after one year on land.

What did you love about cruising? 

Carol: Many things. First of all feeling like I was on a real adventure. Doing something that just a handful of people have the courage to do. Discovering the planet. Away from the tourist traps. Being able to share everything with Livia. Experiencing the unexpected - spending a few months in a house in Tahiti was a surprise. Obviously, we met some great, genuine people.

Livia: I've said this before but I felt like my everyday life was embedded in nature. Almost every day I was outside for large sections of the day, I admired the beauty of my natural surroundings, I soaked up the vibe of the non-human world. I miss that in my current life. You don't have to cruise to have this, as many people living in gorgeous natural surroundings can attest, but I don't experience that daily soaking up of the natural vibe right now.

What did you dislike about cruising? 

Livia: Almost everything I dislike about cruising is a result of how we chose to cruise and so these are the downsides to the upsides we actively sought out. We wanted to be remote which meant we spent a lot of time doing without (this was easy) but our non-remote time was a mad rush to get everything bought and fixed before we went remote again. This was exhausting because we were usually very active when we were remote and then very busy when we were non-remote and over the years this began to feel exhausting and relentless. And yet, we could have chosen at any point to spend more time in those population centers and thus had less stress on that front but I would choose the same again.

Carol: Sharing anchorages with the charter fleet, the big rallies, and cruise ships. I felt it was ruining the vibe, the place, because the kind of people those things attract. With that said, obviously we met some awesome people in those groups too, and bad single cruisers, but in the big picture. I disliked being on guard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - it can wear you down and it was a relief to let go of that.

What do you worry about? 

Livia: When I think about being on land, I worry about not getting back out vagabonding again. When I think about cruising again, I worry about the commitment of owning a boat and what other travel opportunities I will miss out on. When I think about vagabonding by land later, it seems inconceivable to me that I wouldn't go back out cruising. Basically, I am a (high class, first world problem) worrier who has FOMS (Fear Of Missing Out Syndrome).

Carol: My fear right now is to start again too late and to have the wrong expectations either because I forgot the bad about last time or because the world is changing and it will be different.

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising? 

Carol: It's the opposite. It's more what I wish they didn't tell me - what they said at boat shows when they were trying to sell me something and they were totally wrong. I wish I had met some of the people we met out cruising - but that we met them before we went cruising - to have a more open mind about cruising. With that said, it was a good thing I had a great wife that kept my mind open and didn't follow the crowd.

Livia: Cruising is whatever you want it to be and anyone who starts talking about "real cruisers" is automatically suspect to me. Usually those kind of people will define real cruisers in seemingly opposite ways (e.g., they cross oceans and see lots of countries but they spend a long time in one place and deeply experience the culture). Cruising isn't an attitude either. Avoid defining it, experience it, make it yours, do it your way, and respect that same variety in others. The fact that we all do it differently is part of the joy for me and I wish we would allow for as many differences between cruisers as we allow for differences in the cultures we visit.

What are you looking forward to? 

Carol: Looking forward to getting back to more control over our time. We're doing a lot of fun stuff now but it will be nice to when we get back to a place where we don't have to answer to anyone else except Mother Nature, ourselves and the rules of the country we are in.

Livia: We just spent several weeks climbing outside of Las Vegas in a beautiful area called Red Rock Canyon. It was gorgeous and we met up with some friends there. I'm looking forward to going back in a few weeks.

Favorite place recently was 

Carol: Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas. Because of the type of climbing we were doing it felt like and adventure and I felt back in control of our day. We did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.

Livia: Terrebonne, Oregon. Love the vibe there, met some great people, hung out with some old friends, and the climbing at Smith Rock State Park was very fun.

Least favorite place recently was 

Carol: Nowhere.

Livia: Weirdly enough Italy. We met up with good friends there and thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and the rock climbing we did together, but the trash, the dirt, the aggression, the drugs...not a favorite place.

A lesson learned is that...

Livia: The mentality I adopted when cruising has transferred fairly easily to my life on land. I notice the beauty in my environment more no matter where I am, I pay more attention to people and make more eye contact, I take my time, I explore, I avoid trying to change others and to appreciate the differences, and even though I was more of an "activities" than a "things" person before I left, I am even more so now.

Carol: To not let the fear of the future stop you from doing what you love. That it is good to have goals - obtainable, achievable goals.

Best gear award goes to... 

Carol: Our Toyota RAV4 V6. Also, SAS Planet - it was a game changer for people who like to scope out new spots and kite spots.

Livia: I am going to answer these gear questions related to the boat although I'm tempted to say "the dishwasher" from our current home. The best gear that we had while cruising was our boat. We chose a sturdy boat that sailed well and we chose a boat we could easily afford and which left a lot of money in our kitty for upgrades and customization. All of those things decreased the stress and suck factor and increased the fun factor.

Worst gear award goes to... 

Livia: Honestly, the worst gear toward the end was also the boat. She was the perfect boat for us when we set out but 5.5 years later we felt cramped living in her, cramped entertaining in her, and as we became better sailors we felt we could safely handle a little less sturdy boat for a little more performance.

Carol: Having a manual windlass for people like us who explore a lot, going to nook and cranny anchorages where we had to drop multiple times to be set in the perfect spot, or when we wanted to move for a short time, became a nuisance.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn't find to be true? 

Carol: What gear you need because in reality it all depends on you, your boat, your activities, your comfort level, and where you go.

Livia: I often read that the transition back to land was traumatic for people and for me personally, it wasn't. Cruising has its own schedule demands, its own work demands, its own social/community joys and dramas and I find being back on land to be different but with the same issues. I found selling the boat traumatic, but not ending the cruise. I was excited to do something new again. I also heard a lot about how cruising gets you into great shape and while that might be true for someone living a more sedentary life on land who suddenly is cruising and active, for me who had been very physically active on land, I found it tougher to stay in shape while cruising.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate? 

Livia: People were always saying "Go, you'll never regret it". I'm sure some people do regret it, I'm sure some people probably shouldn't go, and I haven't asked everyone I know. Still, I feel like the overwhelming majority of people I have become friends with who have gone cruising - even the friends who didn't particularly like it all of the time, who stopped earlier than they expected, who came back to land broke - don't regret having gone and cherish memories from their time out.

Carol: You can go with any kind of sound boat and you don't have to wait to have the perfect boat. Any boat you go with will cause some limitations.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I've asked you and how would you answer it? 

Please ask us a question in the comments of our blog. I promise to respond.

The IWAC Revival

3/15/2017
As recently published on the Interview With A Cruiser site:

After a five year hiatus, the Interview With A Cruiser Project is coming out of intermission.

I am toying with different formats, mulling over the question bank, reaching out to my contacts, and thinking through the project from top to bottom.

Here is your chance for input before the project gets up and rolling again!

What did you enjoy about the project? What did you find lacking? Did anything annoy or frustrate you? If you could run the project, what would you do differently? What subjects fascinated you? Which subjects weren't covered enough?

Comment here, on the IWAC post, or on the same topic on the IWAC Facebook page.

Pilot Whale Stranding in New Zealand

1/30/2017



//This post refers to events from February 2015 when we were land traveling in New Zealand, having left SV Estrellita in a keel pit in Fiji. I had originally written this for a non-blogging purpose, never did anything with it, and so am posting it here.//

More than 150 pilot whales were stranded on the beach and the call was going out for volunteers. Like many cruisers, we were using the South Pacific cyclone season as a chance to tramp and car camp around New Zealand. While the pilot whales were struggling on the hard, we were snug in our sleeping bags at a hippy rock climbers campground at the North end of the South Island of New Zealand, about 45 minutes away.

After an unusually noisy early morning in camp, we unzipped our tent to find the climbers campground was deserted -- an incredibly rare event at that hour. After asking around we found out about the stranding which had occurred the previous evening. When we arrived at the beach, we were happy to see a large crowd of volunteers.

Believing that there was no need for additional help, we went to the beach just to observe. Several tide cycles after the stranding, there were still about 60 whales on the beach and quite a few were already dead. A baby whale and its mother were still alive. The mother was struggling under her own beached weight while the baby was splashing in a trench dug around its body.

We came upon a team of people caring for a whale they had named Emily. The volunteers were cold, wet, exhausted and in need of relief. They gave us instructions on how to care for Emily and we spent the next several hours carrying buckets of cold water to cool her overheated core, keeping her upright on her belly to avoid crushing her pectoral fins, and talking to her to calm her breathing and to keep her from panicking.

Emily was severely blistered from the sun. She kept her eyes tightly shut against the drying air and blew fiercely in intervals out of her blowhole. One of her pectoral fins had lost a deep slice of skin from her struggles before she was rolled onto her stomach by volunteers. She had been draped in an old white sheet to protect her skin from further sun damage and to hold the cooling water against her.

I will never forget my turn at her head, crouched down in the wet sand at her side near her eye, talking soothingly to her. She had rolled slightly and we were trying to right her. We had sandbags to keep her propped up and in good position for the upcoming high tide but sometimes the sand would give, or she would struggle and start sliding to one side. While we were righting her, trying our best to avoid her badly blistered skin, her breathing had become more jerky, with the breaths coming closer and closer together. You could feel her pain and fear. As I began talking soothingly to her, she gradually slowed her breathing and began taking full, even breaths. I had calmed her and that realization connected me to her in a way that I will remember forever.

As the tide approached, surging in quickly on the long flat beach, the volunteers without wetsuits scurried back across the muddy tidal flats to higher ground. At this point, the difficult task of keeping the whales calm and in place until they had enough water to swim safely began. The Department of Conservation used special floats to first bring out a whale that they believed was a pod leader in hopes that the lead pilot whale swimming offshore would encourage the others.

New Zealand's Golden Bay has a long history of whale beachings. Although scientists are still uncertain as to the exact cause, the preferred explanation is that the long sloping beach combined with a large tidal range confuses the echolocation of the whales who cannot get a solid radar return on the low angle slope. The pilot whales come in, the ebbing tide rushes out and they become stranded. With up to 8 kilometers of tidal flats at Farewell Spit, even if stranded whales refloat on the next high tide, the long shallow beach causes the whales to have difficulty finding their way to deeper water and they often find themselves stranded again.

At sunset, when all of the surviving whales were floating just off the sand, the wetsuit volunteers grasped each others' cold, salty hands and formed a human chain to direct the whales away from the shallows and into deeper water.

Emily swam away. The Department of Conservation experts assured us that whales can recover from such grievous injuries to their skin. I hope so. The next time we are on passage in the South Pacific, sailing between island nations, and we are surrounded by pilot whales, as has occurred several times in the past, I am going to toast Emily and hope she and the rest of her pod always stay in deep water.

LIQUID MOTIVATION

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