Cheryl from Mid-Life Cruising selected us for the Liebster Award, a pass-it-along blog award that goes from site to site to promote the discovery of new blogs. When selected you answer a quick interview of 10 questions and pass your own nomination down the road to a handful of other blogs you enjoy, spreading the traffic around so everyone gets to see who the favourites are of their favourites. Savvy?
Below is our interview. We're working on the other blogs to nominate as well, so stay tuned for that one.
The Liebster Awards Interview
Other than leaving family, what has been the most challenging part of this lifestyle?
We left family long ago, but they’re never far away. I moved away from home when I was 18 to Whistler, but my parents and brother would come see me often, or I would fly there. Leaving family for us has always just been a reason to visit them elsewhere and experience new things together. Now I’m 32, so not being near family geographically doesn’t affect me. I know we see each other three, four, five or more times a year for different trips and vacations.
The challenges we have faced so far have been limited mostly to logistics, which in the end, can always be addressed. Where to get this repair done, how to tackle this project, which new tools need to be ordered to that next something done. Figuring out the most cost effective and long-term solution is the challenge. Everything else is the adventure.
What are your favorite things about this lifestyle?
Since we work together, own businesses together and live together, we spend all of our time together. But sometimes even while with each other, we’re working on different things. Usually, I’ll have my projects, whether they’re work related or things I’m interested in, and Katy will have hers. Katy’s also vary from work based, like starting her own business to exploring hobbies and interests that don’t always intersect with mine.
Then, here comes the boat. It can go almost anywhere we can imagine. It has tighter quarters than our homes have had. It gives us projects to work on together. Everything on the boat is together. You’re literally and figuratively in it together. Even if you’re not a part of one repair, or one other job, you hear all about it from an arms length away.
That's the best part about it all. Even though our lives were previously connected, always near each other, the boat has made it so that all our time is truly spent with each other.
What has this lifestyle taught you about yourself and/or what have you experienced that you'd never have known as a landlubber?
There have been practical lessons we’ve learned. Technical things that go along with maintenance and preparation for this kind of lifestyle. As far as things we’ve learned about ourselves, I don’t know if we’re there yet.
The reason getting a boat happened was that we knew certain characteristics about ourselves, but had just lacked the opportunities to let them show. Katy and I are both hard working, and that’s got to be the biggest heads-up for would be sailors. This shit is not easy. It’s non-stop work. If it seems easy, or if it seems like there isn’t anything left to do, you’re probably slacking.
Between keeping things tidy, getting things in offshore or even day sailing condition and monitoring all the boat’s systems, there will be no shortage. So, all of that we were prepared for.
We of course already knew that we had a love for the sea, and for sure that we can spend extended periods of time alone together for days, weeks on end.
I know we will be tested and in years learn things about ourselves from sailing. We’ve been hit by some storms out at sea and been tested that way. I think the way you react the first time your toe rail goes under and a squall knocks you sideways can tell you a lot about yourself. The reactions for us to those situations have been just the right amount of fear to keep you honest without any of the paralysis. Get the things done to fix the scenario, right the boat and stay on course.
For now, I guess what we’ve learned is that we’re ready to work and learn about what’s coming and we can put the hours in to prove it.
I hate to cook, so what's your recommendation for a "must-have" galley item that I should have on our boat and an easy dish to make?
We have a non-pressurized alcohol stove in Edward Blair. It’s an Origo 4000. I really don’t mind it. It’s safe and cheap to fill. But, it doesn’t exactly come in first with speed to boil. One of the items we’ve used the most to fix that is a Coleman camping stove. It’s not really a galley item since you probably don’t want to fill your boat with carbon monoxide, but more of a cockpit item. These little things cook out 10,000 BTUs and can have anything boiled, cooked, heated in moments. It’s the most utilized thing in our galley setup, but not my favourite.
Since we prefer flavour over ease of use, the Cobb BBQ is my favourite cooking item on the boat. It’s built so that the sides and bottom never get hot, so you can bring it anywhere on your deck and put it down without any damage to your topside. Throw in some mesquite briquettes, let them char white and you can cook the most delicious, smokiest meat right at anchor with no one in sight during sunset, right on deck. I’m a simple man. Give me whisky to drink, a BBQ to man and a cigar to smoke at sunset and I’d stay forever.
Easy dish? Most any meat, grilled on the Cobb BBQ at the bow of your boat.
What (if anything) has caused you the most anxiety about the cruising/traveling lifestyle? Does it still?
Anxieties are based on skill set and context. Initially the main anxieties were with things like docking and being in close quarters to stationary objects. If you've never docked a sailboat, it’s not like parking a car in any way. Imagine every time you wanted to go to and come back from the store it took a couple of you to get the car out of the stall, you had to plan what to do and tie lines off to different pillars in a parking garage just to not damage the $200,000 car next to you… and all of a sudden coming back in, for some reason the ground started sloping and pulling you towards the cement pillars. Once you get a bit more comfortable, that starts fading as your main point of anxiety.
Later in life, depending on financial stability, I could see anxiety points developing from repairs, or learning to do your own and wondering if that engine job you did will get you safely into a new port after a long passage. Anxiety will come in many forms over our careers as captains, but if anything can teach stress management, it’s sailing and all of the challenges that come with it.
Have you ever seriously considered ditching this lifestyle sooner than later? If so, why and are you glad that you haven't?
We’re too new to it to give an answer that could be considered any ounce of credible. The way we feel about it is so strong that I can’t imagine ever giving up the freedom, excitement and challenge that sailing and living on a boat gives you. But, who knows, that could be like a child saying they know they want to be a surgeon when they grow up. You have no idea what you’re talking about.
Do you feel that your health has improved since leaving the landlubber life? If so, how?
Well, we still have a mixed lifestyle. We keep a house in Mexico and our boat, and with travelling as much as we have lately, we’re always in different cities as well as the ocean. I definitely found even just a week at a time on the boat you’re eating and being healthier. Maybe you’re moving less, but we would eat healthier, making sure to use all the meats and produce right away before canned goods or snacks.
When we’re between apartments, hotels and cities, it's so easy to eat garbage. Which is delicious, but it can’t be good in the long run.
What do you see in the future for cruisers and liveaboards regarding its population, costs, regulations, and crime?
I hope more young people find a way to access this lifestyle. We meet many people in their middle age or later sailing around and living it already, but that makes sense. You work for a large segment of your life to be able to afford the boat and build up the experience necessary. Maybe you have to wait until the kids are gone. There is a certain level of preparation that's needed.
It’s been great, because the folks we meet all have so many great stories since they’ve been at it for so long. And, maybe we like being the younger of the groups we run into, however, there’s something exciting about knowing people your age or younger who are making that leap. Instead of sharing their stories of past experiences, they get to tell you current tribulations, how they're making it happen and what plans they may have to get underway. Almost like a way to feel mutually inspired for what you're going through now as opposed to hearing tales that are a bit further down the way.
I think with so many different types of online work, satellite offices and a generation looking to use their income to explore the world, it can’t be far off that the desire to use mainstream means to travel, explore, camp, moves into the sea with some younger people getting into the water.
The cost barrier may be an inhibitor, but where there’s a will...
As for regulations, there is a big issue right now going on in Florida about anchoring. We're nowhere near there, so it's hard to show our support in person, but we spent so much time there with our boat this summer that we've filled out the petitions, forms and surveys from afar. Issues about sailing regulations are likely too large of a topic for this response. It would be great to get a guest post going for here or recycling some content about it. If you know anything about regulations, it's that they have a way of spreading downhill. If these new proposed restrictions happen within Florida, you can almost be certain cruisers throughout the United States will eventually all be affected.
Finally, crime. We have yet to be subject to it, but have heard of some theft here and there. Theft and crime will happen anywhere and everywhere that opportunity exists, land or sea. Stay educated about the regions you're traveling to, know the statistics and do your best to not become one of them. If somehow you've learned how to avoid storms, prepare your boat and adjust sails for performance in unfavourable conditions, surely you can learn about local crime rates and issues. They're the same thing, terrible things that can spring upon you when you least expect them. Sure, misfortune can also affect the well prepared, but I think we can agree it's less likely to do real damage to those who are aware of its potential.
What is your favorite past time while on the boat?
Aside from actually sailing and playing around with the sail trim, it’d be a competition between fishing and staring into the sea, doing nothing.
On land we lead pretty busy lives. We own three businesses and travel lots. Computers on at all times, staring at smartphones, inboxes and sitting at desks are an every day part of our lives. Edward Blair is the dream we get to come to for half days before work or on weekends.
I get a lot of enjoyment out of bringing all my fishing gear up and sitting in the cockpit to set up new lure combos as we sail. If I’m not doing that, while underway I keep away from any devices and just stare at the sea. On our recent six day passage from Florida to Mexico, I would sit for 15 hours straight in the cockpit, just doing nothing but staring out calmly, waiting for that reel to click, checking on the usual items when needed.
It’s amazing to me that on land you need a device in your pocket or a laptop in front of you to feel comfortable, or to keep away the boredom. At sea, something is a bit different. Maybe it’s that conditions are constantly changing, or the sea is out there doing its thing. You just don’t really need the same type of stimulation.
What part of the boat has caused you the most headaches/repairs? What has made life aboard easier?
The Yanmar for sure. It’s a 1980 Yanmar 2QM20 and mostly in solid condition for an engine of its age. It’s not a rusted pile or anything, and has been cared for as well as visually looking solid. But, with age comes the need for tuneups and a watchful eye.
We’ve recently replaced all the hoses, put in a brand new mixing exhaust, had a completely new prop shaft and flex coupling fabricated from moulds of our old ones, clean blasted and re-fitted the stuffing box as well as replaced all the filters, impeller and a new stuffing box hose. The prop shaft, coupling and stuffing box all needed the boat up on the hard. That cost us a week of hotels in Florida, a week on the hard and the mechanical help to make sure everything was done perfectly for the offshore sailing we were about to get into.
People go through much more with their boats, so at this point we're happy that those engine repairs were the biggest issue we had. We've learned a lot from that as well. Which leads into the second part of this question, what has made life easier.
The selection of the boat itself is what has made life easier than it could have been. We picked a boat right in our size and price range. We didn't go above a length we could competently handle aiming to grow into it, and we didn't jump above or below a reasonable price range.
Both sides of the budget equation can be equally as troublesome for completely different reasons. Too much, you may have to give up the dream too soon. Too little, and it may take too long to get the dream going through repairs and refurbishing.
The Morgan 321 we picked was about as close to turnkey as a used boat could be with the right amount of tune ups to get us well acquainted with her systems. It was the exact style and design we were looking for. Mostly coastal cruising, with a habit of going offshore from time to time. She handled wonderfully through the Gulf Stream, Yucatan Channel in varying conditions.
So far a lot of smooth sailing has been surrounded by a lot of hard work, which makes the sailing feel all the more rewarding. This thing we've chosen to do is a thing we can feel proud of every day.