CRUISING ON MAGIC DRAGON
BUY A BIG YACHT.... AND SAIL OFF ROUND THE WORLD
“Stuff the garden, I want to buy a big yacht and sail off round the world.” A similar sentiment formed part of a successful advertising campaign for a financial institution. They were making the point that, whatever your dream, it could be made possible with some financial planning and savings. In the current era, a large number of people are becoming financially secure relatively early in life. This may be through successful careers, investments or even inheritance, and people are staying fit, active and healthy for much longer than was the case even thirty years ago. These two factors combine to make this dream a practical reality for an ever-increasing number of people.
The authors did not grow up with sailing. We had reached a stage in our careers where major changes of direction were necessary if there was to be any further progress. The stresses of chasing goals set by other people to promote their own causes in corporate politics had completely destroyed our enthusiasm. We had the house we really loved, the fast cars and expensive holidays, but they did not really compensate for the prospect of several more years of large company life. In short, we needed a complete change of scenery and an absorbing challenge to refresh us.
So we bought the big yacht and sailed off round the world..............
We all dream and fantasise to some degree. Of course, some individuals dream more than others, and some dream more practically than others. While to many fantasy is just a means to escape boring or difficult situations, for others it can be a valuable tool to explore potential options for the future. Maybe one of the attributes of those people we regard as successful is the ability to focus this tool effectively, and to examine the ideas it generates to see if they could really be practical options.
For the authors, our project to sail round the world grew from this escapism. As part of hard won vacations we had occasionally sailed along tropical coastlines as passengers aboard commercial day charter yachts. Only a few years before “giving up the day job” we learnt to sail as part of a holiday in Greece. Gradually we found, after a particularly frustrating event at work, or when staring out over our bleak garden in the British winter, our thoughts would turn to tropical sailing. “Just imagine sailing in the sunshine from island to island; swimming every day in the warm, clear water; no more struggling through red tape or being a slave to the telephone”.
Of course, we had seen and read of others who lived this life, but we did not know that it could be a practicality for us. Before we could start to plan to experience this different world, or even to decide to make it happen, we needed to take a hard look at our circumstances.
So how much experience is required to set out upon this path, and what physical and financial attributes do you need to have?..............
The most fundamental choice you will make is your intended cruising area. This decision should be made early. If you are to be happy with your yacht, its equipment and your overall lifestyle, they must be chosen to suit the locale in which they will be used. There seems to be a perverse satisfaction for existing boat owners in successfully completing voyages that their cherished craft were never designed to do. Then again, there are people who try to cross the English Channel in tin bathtubs fitted with small outboard motors.
The factors go beyond just evaluating the amount of time it takes to sail from one place to the next, and the sea conditions you will meet. Your chosen cruising area will affect such basic issues as the overall size of the yacht to allow for storage of provisions, fuel and water, the likelihood of regular visits from friends and family and thus the facilities you will need to house them, and even the colour of the hull and deck to most suit the climate...............
This book is only a first step. We have written it because we could not find a guide that presented an approach that suited our needs when we first started our research. This is not to say that there are no books about sailing, quite the reverse. Go into any bookshop, library or chandlers, and the shelves will be laden with magazines, cruising guides, accounts of adventures and heavy technical tomes about different aspects of the subject. The internet bulges with websites that are written about this, one of the major pastimes of the world. Reading about sailing is an absorbing leisure activity that can fill your hours with endless interesting facts and opinions. In fact there is so much conflicting information that the result is often confusion...............
We have already stressed our belief that it is essential to identify the parts of the world you intend to sail in, before making any hard decisions about the yacht you will use. Plans will always evolve, as information is gathered and personal circumstances change. As with any multi year project, the plan should include a clear vision of the intended outcome, identification of the major factors involved, and flexibility to deal with obstacles along the way. In the final analysis it is your dream that you are trying to fulfill, and it is your plan that will determine your success. Here we will pull together many of the major decisions that we believe should be made early on, to let you define your strategy, and form the framework for your endeavour...............
Yachts are purchased for a variety of reasons, more often emotional than logical. The choice can often depend on the colour scheme of the demonstrator at a boat show, the cachet of the manufacturer’s name or how well the salesman paints a dream in the prospect’s mind. Wiser buyers may take note of recommendations from enthusiastic owners, or be swayed by great weekends spent on the treasured craft owned by colleagues.
By now it should have become apparent that we are suggesting a very analytical approach to choosing your yacht: the immaculate star of the show may look very different after six months of heavy live-aboard use; the winner of local club races might respond differently when exposed to ocean swells.
If you were intending to purchase machinery for your business, investing hundreds of thousands of pounds or dollars, you or your staff would conduct exhaustive investigations. You would look at price and depreciation, performance, economy and maintenance issues, mean time between failure, manufacturer’s reputation, support and guarantees, operator training ……on and on and on. You would be staking your money or that of the shareholders, and possibly your reputation, on how well the equipment satisfied the business need. When you purchase your yacht you will be staking your dreams, and possibly your family’s well being on the suitability of your choice...............
For many people the prospect of returning to a simpler life holds great attractions. The popularity of the camping and canoeing sites and remote adventure holidays amongst affluent families attests to this desire. When they return to their more normal life, they feel refreshed, and may wistfully yearn for this more basic existence, but how many are secretly thankful to reacquire hot running water, fresh clean clothes and cable TV?
The paramount difference between the intended audience for this book and the myriad weekend and holiday sailors lies here. You are not discussing a holiday; you are anticipating a way of life. Reaffirming your relationship to nature via camping and trekking might be a refreshing prospect for a couple of weeks; a couple of years could be a very different story.
There are many reasons why you might abandon your plans to complete your cruising project. It would be tragic if the real cause was that your initial choice of equipment made conditions aboard intolerable for long term living. At the planning stage you should therefore take the space and budgetary requirements of all the major items into account, even if some may be better installed as your cruise progresses...............
Just as very few professional craftsmen would forgo the convenience and efficiency of electric tools when producing their masterpieces, it is only the diehard traditional sailor that remains skeptical of the use of electrical devices to improve life aboard a yacht...............
Everyone needs to communicate. Gone are the days of disappearing into the wide blue yonder to resurface somewhere several years later. By that time the family will have disowned you, the bank will have merged with another financial institution and stopped paying bills, and your friends will have dispersed never to be tracked down again.
Escaping from some landside intrusions is a major part of the attraction; the incessant irritation of telemarketers, television and radio advertising and junk mail is something most people would gladly do without. Many of us, however, are now so conditioned to constant input that we become quite disorientated within a couple of weeks without our daily fix of news, both global and from our nearest and dearest...............
The average recreational yacht owner attaches little importance to his or her yacht tender. If the yacht is marina based, it may not even carry one. Even if the larger boat is normally kept on a mooring some way from the shore, the most important attribute of the dinghy is how well it can be stored at the yacht club or transported in the luggage compartment of a car. If a motor is used to propel the dinghy, it must be light enough to be lifted easily into the car, or onto a storage rack ashore. Often the greatest environmental damage is through the action of mould or a passing vandal with a penknife.
Now imagine that your yacht is one of the dozens anchored off Princess Margaret Beach on the Caribbean island of Bequia. This is one of the most desirable places to visit if you are a yacht owner. A tropical breeze is cooling the boat, counteracting the effects of the hot, bright sun. Gentle waves lap against the hull. The palm trees rustle at the fringe of the long white beach a few hundred yards away. Half a mile to the north is the Devil’s Table, a reef teaming with brightly coloured fish, a snorkelling and diving paradise. Further down the bay, amongst the more densely packed charter boats, local sailing craft and tourists’ dinghies create a glistening chop as they criss-cross the harbour. Beyond that, nearly a mile away, there is the dock used by the ferry from St Vincent, bringing fresh produce and chattering people to the little town that beckons. Tiny grocery shops smelling of fresh bread add to the mix of boutiques, chandlers, restaurants, local laughter and the promise of entertainment and adventure.
How are you going to get to these places?..............
In previous chapters we have touched upon some aspects of background support. This is an essential ingredient in your cruising project: get it right and you will keep a weight off your mind; get it wrong and the resultant worries may spoil the whole adventure.
It is never too early to start preparations in this area, and early attention might even reveal some positive benefits to your project. Sounding out and discussing backup issues with family and friends might well uncover enthusiastic support for your plans, once the initial surprise has died down. Colleagues may well identify with your endeavour as they discuss your planned route, while family members will begin to anticipate visits to exotic places, and tales from abroad...............
“Surely most people go sailing to get away from computers and all the stress caused by modern technology”. Well, that is true for a sector of the cruising community. Many people gain great satisfaction from achieving a way of life that is relatively untouched by electronics, and that enables them to acquire and practice the skills so prized by their forefathers. These traditionalists firmly believe that there is no place for a mouse on board a yacht.
Another group is keen to apply the fruits of modern research and technical innovation to the process of sailing, in order to gain most enjoyment from the journey and the places they visit. The authors fall firmly within this faction...............
“Apart from sailing from island to island, socialising with friends, working out navigation, maintaining the yacht’s systems, downloading weather information, participating in the radio nets, swimming and snorkelling, exploring rain forests, beaches and exotic locations, bartering for provisions and souvenirs where you can’t speak the language, researching possible destinations, making friends with local people, attending multi-national gatherings and parties; what do you do all day”?
There is a common perception amongst our non-sailing friends that this is a life of indolence. Surely we must get up late, spend the whole day sunbathing and lazing about in the cockpit, take the occasional swim around the yacht and spend evenings sipping cocktails while watching the sunset and attending beach barbeques. This could happen now and again, but as an everyday life style it would become very boring. Even taking into account all the facets we quoted above, most voyagers find time for hobbies and other interests...............
When building the content of this book, we have tried to take as balanced a view as possible, while focusing on a particular audience that we feel has been ignored.
The opinions have been those of ourselves and people we have met along the way, and have good reason to respect. In making our case for the approaches we suggest we have tried to concentrate on verifiable fact, and easily supportable views.
In this chapter we have indulged ourselves a little, by presenting some more personal views, and observations we have made of other peoples’ experiences around the world. Please do not ask us for evidence to back them up, since they may represent our personal characteristics, or we may just wish to protect the innocent or guilty...............
& Attitudes (USA) www.latsandatts.com
Navigator (USA) www.oceannavigator.com
World (USA) www.trawlerworld.com
Yachting World (UK) www.yachting-world.com
Linda & Steve Dashew, www.setsail.com
West Marine www.westmarine.com
American Sailing Association www.asa.com
Royal Yachting Association www.rya-online.net