We arrived back at our island home on the mid-afternoon ferry earlier this month. As we came into the bay I noticed the British flag on an anchored boat and commented to Larry, “Handsome boat, might wander out tomorrow and invite the crew for a drink.” When I got up to the house I noticed a note tucked under my doormat.
“We are British Sailors who restored an Alajuela 38 in the USA,” read the note. “That included building a wooden mast, rudder and bowsprit before setting off for Guatemala. After a few months back in England to work, we left Guatemala in February 2014, visited Cuba then Panama and crossed the Pacific to find ourselves here. We’ve been pleased and surprised to meet many very young people this year going ‘small, simple and now!’ but have found that for many of them this is something they’re doing for the experience before moving on to other challenges. For us, this is it. We plan to sail indefinitely (with occasional workstops/visits). We move a lot because we love sailing so we are leaving tomorrow to sail to Fiordland.”
A few minutes later I noticed the crew from Impetuous rowing toward our jetty. Soon nibbles and wine were on the table and of course the sailing stories flowed; the places we’d both visited, the changes since we’d been there, the destinations we’d recommend, the best places to haul out, dive, meet folks, get provisions. But what interested me most was hearing more about the young people and people on small boats Duncan and Ruth mentioned in their note. They told us that during their Pacific Crossing 35 to 40% of the boats surrounding them in popular anchorages were less than 35 feet in length and in Tonga the number was even higher. “We expected to meet mostly retired folks or older people who had sold their homes so they’d have the money to go cruising. But instead we were often surrounded by folks our ages or younger who had set off on a second-hand, small boat and were having a blast.” Further questioning did give a clue as to why a high proportion of smaller, low budget boats shared their anchorages. Duncan and Ruth had voyaged at their own pace, moving far more slowly than most cruisers do as they move along the so called “Coconut Milk Run.” Thus they arrived in most places after the bigger crowds have moved on. We too used to find cruising slightly out of season introduced us to a completely different set of voyagers, ones who tended to have less rigid schedules and often were on smaller vessels. (It was after the normal sailing season when we anchored in Dartmouth, England, several years back. Where only two weeks before every place we visited on the south coast of the UK had been filled to almost overflow with anchored yachts and a harbour master who immediately rushed out and asked us for money, now only two others were anchored around us and the harbour master didn’t appear for two days and when he did, offered to buy us a drink at the pub and waived anchoring fees. The other two yachts were Wylo, a self-built 28 footer with Nick Skeates on board and Dan Bowen on 30 foot Romadi, folks who subsequently voyaged many thousands of miles.)
But still, during our last jaunt down through the Pacific four years ago though we met several younger sailors on smaller boats, we’d usually been surrounded by folks over 50 on boats over 45 feet in length. So it is good to learn that the trend might be changing, that lots of other folks are realizing you can successfully cruise on a small affordable boat on a limited budget while they are young. Duncan and Ruth’s story also shows that real bargains can be found for people who are, as their boat name implies, impetuous and willing to put in some hard physical work. In spite of living in the UK, when they saw an advert for Impetuous Too which had been a victim of a hurricane in Texas, they couldn’t resist taking a look at her. They flew to the US justifying the trip by saying it would be an interesting vacation. Then they saw the boat and decided to change their lives. Though her hull was not damaged, her mast was irreparable, her rudder and much of her gear missing, and they recognized her virtues. It took them three years got get their boat ready for sea, to re-configure their lives so they could set sail. And like others we have met, they are cruising for about $1,000 US a month. You can read a breakdown of their cruising expenses at www.impetuoustoo.blogspot.com.
The next morning Duncan and Ruth were off to explore more of New Zealand, with a promise to return if, as they hoped, they sailed right around the country. As I watched them sail out of the cove I thought of the many voyagers who cross the Pacific and arrive in New Zealand eager to put their boat on a mooring or on the hard where they leave it until it is time to sail back to the tropics. They miss the wonderful sailing to be found around New Zealand. I have tried to correlate the differences between those who store their boats away for six months and those who do explore this coast under sail. One thing stands out, those with smaller (under 40 feet) boats and smaller budgets tend to explore more. It might be because their boats are easier to handle, easier to sail or they moved at a slower pace and accepted they couldn’t visit every possible island along the way, thus they arrive in New Zealand less tired by voyaging across the whole Pacific. Or the smaller boat required less maintenance once they arrived or was easier to get under way. Their smaller budget might have made it less tempting to leave the boat and fly “home.” Or it may be their boat has truly become their only home. Whatever the case, each of the voyagers that has dropped anchor in our cove and rowed ashore to share their adventures seemed to be full of stories about the great experiences they had by sailing away from the temptations of Opua or Whangerie so they could meet local folks.
Out of season, off the beaten track – two more clues as to what made our life afloat fulfilling and extremely memorable.
Lin and Larry
P.S. The organizers of the Strictly Sail Pacific Boatshow at Jack London Square have asked me to present a special half day seminar on Sunday April 12th, Writing, Blogging, Video – how to make it pay. Gary “Cap’t Fatty” Goodlander will come along and add his thoughts to the section on book publishing. The fee includes entry to the boat show. Seating will be limited. Check this out at http://strictlysailpacific.com/seminars/writing-videos-blogging-how-to-make-it-pay/ I’ll also be at the authors’ corner all four days of the show and doing shorter free seminars. Hope to see some of you there.
P.S.S. For those of you who enjoy Facebook, I post once or twice a week on my own page, you are welcome to come along – https://www.facebook.com/lin.pardey