Monday, 20 January 2014

a question of dollars

A tiny speck in the South Pacific: Beautiful Suwarrow
How much does it cost? That was the first question typed in the comments section of our Facebook Page, after I opened the floor to inquiries regarding our life as voyagers. And while I didn’t mean to sound flippant, my immediate response was “It costs as much as you have.” That’s what it comes down to, really. You spend what’s in your wallet. We have cruised with folks that own newer, bigger boats with many luxuries. They mostly hire people to maintain or repair their boats. Wherever they go, they often eat out, go on costly tours or rent cars to explore inland, all because they can. We have also cruised with boats that didn’t have anything but bare bones. Our sister ship “Clover” that left for the South Pacific the year before us, was a minimalist’s dream. I met her friendly captain Shane very briefly, and I know one shouldn’t believe everything they read, but an article written about him in Latitude 38 said he left North America with $300. We also met a boat that would catch fish for your next supper in exchange for charging their Kindle, the young couple also swam to get to shore. I’m not kidding. Most of us out here are neither extreme, but how much we spend to explore this great, big world still significantly varies. And it's doable, even if you don't have a lot of money.

“But you guys sold a house!” is the comment I have often heard from others. Yes we did, and it would have taken a lot longer to get out here if we hadn’t. Yet there are many ways to make voyaging happen. It depends on what your expectations are, where you wish to go, what type of boat you have, and how well it withstands the demands of offshore sailing, (if that’s what you’re planning on doing). Sometimes, it’s just timing. Our buddy Ben managed to find an affordable, decent boat which he purchased with a friend. They then learned to sail it and took turns to take it across the Pacific from San Diego to Australia! He’s 26 years old and didn’t sell a house to go sailing.

How much it costs depends on what you can’t live without. When I say “what you can’t live without”, I mean what you don’t want to live without. It’s your choice if you want a certified liferaft (for some that’s a no-brainer), or if you refuse to sail under 4 knots. We have friends we love dearly, who categorically refuse to sail under 4 knots… That is unimaginable to us. First, that means you burn a lot of fuel as light winds are common. And diesel costs money. On Nyon, we only carry 35 gallons of it, that’s including our Gerry cans. We have to be choosy about when we turn on the iron jib. But that’s not the only reason we sometimes sail at less than 2 knots, we much prefer the sound of the wind and waves over the roar of a diesel engine.

Shades of blue in Makemo, Tuamotus
If it looks like I’m avoiding giving you actual numbers, it’s because I am. I am not comfortable sharing my finances on the Internet.* But I understand the question. Many wonder how we could afford to not work for 2 ½ years while voyaging nearly 15000 nautical miles. I’ll tell you: we sacrificed a lot, and to be honest, most of the time it was easy for us. We generally choose to live very simply. Still, we are at the point where we also have to start working again. We need to put some money into the boat and into the cruising kitty. As we settle into life in New Zealand for the time being, we apply the same approach we have had while travelling. We ask ourselves these kinds of questions: Do we need it or do we want it badly? Is there a cheaper option? Is there a free option? Can we trade for it? Of course, we did treat ourselves to the occasional meal out, but in Mexico that usually meant taco stands while in the South Pacific, it meant going to a roulotte.  We learned the art of using Sikaflex to fix our hiking sandals. We mended our clothes and washed all our laundry by hand. We anchored out 99% of the time. (Although in the South Pacific, we did use moorings more frequently due to the depths of certain anchorages.)
Heading to Moorea, as seen from Tahiti
Now that we’re in New Zealand, we live on a mooring, not a dock. (It’s much cheaper.) We live in a tiny village where there just aren’t many places to buy things (unless you’re buying boat bits). There are plenty of free anchorages within a couple hour sail. Do we feel isolated? A little. But we like going for walks and hikes, sailing, and storytelling. Those are all pretty much free. We might eventually have to buy a car, but we’re holding off for as long as we can. We walk everywhere and borrow other (kind) people’s cars and bikes when we need groceries. Sometimes we rent a car for the day. We discuss every major expense to death, and we each have a spending “allowance” that we can use as we wish without prior discussion with the other. (I’m talking about $20 a week here.) As we make money again, we will split it in three categories: 1) Day-to-day living, 2) Savings 3) Boat repairs/maintenance. We note everything we spend. Sometimes we let loose, and splurge, we’re only human after all. But living simply is a goal for us, not just a necessity. The fact that we don’t want to be sucked onto the consumerist train encourages us to make the choices we make.
Nyon leaves La Paz, Mexico
Photo courtesy of SV Eagle
Owning a boat costs money, and travelling costs money. How much money you have saved will dictate what kind of boat you buy, how old the boat is, and how much of the work you do yourself. How much money you have might lead you to cruise Mexico for very few pesos, or spend a little or a lot more to explore the South Pacific Islands. Depending on your interests, you may explore foreign countries by enjoying free activities. We hiked a lot, spent as much time as possible in the water and we shared homemade meals with new friends. If you like being in marinas, checking out local restaurants and organized activities, you will want to budget accordingly.

If you’re dreaming of sailing over the horizon, and you actually make it out there, how much money you have will not change the fact that one day, you will likely find yourself in an anchorage with both a multimillion dollar yacht and a tiny hippie boat with no refrigeration. Trust me: the sunset will look the same from both cockpits. So allow me to answer your question with a question, Rob: "When you say, how much does it cost?" I say, "How much have you got?" (And what are you waiting for?)

Tahanea, Tuamotus

*If youre interested in some proper number crunching here are a few links of other cruisers' budgets. While they vary a lot (due to the size of the crew, personal preferences and priorities, etc), they will give you a more concrete image of the costs of cruising. 

For Scream's budget in 2011-2012. Click here.

For Wondertime's South Pacific budget (2012). Click here.

Further reading:
Voyaging with Velella. Click here.
Estrellita 5.10B has linked to a number of sources on their blog. Click here.

If you have any links to recommend on this topic, please include them in the comments below..

Sunday, 12 January 2014

wishing you a wish

Pretty Okahu Island
Another year, another adventure. We want to wish you (a little belatedly) a fantastic new year! We hope 2014 is the year you reach an important goal (to you), may it also be the year you try something that scares you and succeed, and perhaps this year, you will impress yourself by learning a new skill. And finally, let's all make it a year we support and encourage another who may simply need someone to believe in them. And that's as close as we get to resolutions on this boat.

Wishing you good health, love, and a juicy adventure or two, the Nyon crew.

Sending our love to you, you know who you are!

Gnarly tree strikes my fancy

Who needs television when there are sunsets?

the road files: imaginary scenery

Cape Reinga Lighthouse, really.
Happy to be together, rain or shine
We went to Cape Reinga and all we got was a lousy wall of fog. Well that’s not entirely true. We also got lashed with rain and hail, but who’s counting. It was a long way to drive and we’re a stubborn lot. We parked the car and walked to the lighthouse anyway. We weren’t the only ones: quite a few other brave souls hunched their shoulders and pressed on as well. We couldn’t see the nearby islands. We barely distinguished a sliver of ocean, right near shore. We had to imagine the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean swirling together. And we came back to the car soaked. Perhaps we should have paid closer attention to the forecast, but this was a LAND activity, we didn’t need to worry about the weather right? 
(Silly, silly sailors…)

Water! We see water!

And they call me weird...

We refused to be outdone by the lousy weather, and headed for the sand dunes of 90 mile beach. Our luck improved and the skies while still grey stopped dumping on us. 

We kicked off our jandals (flip flops) and scampered among the giant mountains of sand, and lo and behold, we saw the Tasman Sea at last!

Sea-ho! The Tasman Sea shows us her colours after all!
Road trips are fun. Rain or shine. I was glad I was not sailing around the northern tip of New Zealand that day, it would have been ghastly. But we faked it as landlubbers and we did have fun. The day ended with an impromptu stop at the Ngawha Hot Springs.

In case you're wondering, this is no fancy spa. To quote Rick: “It brings the term shabby chic to new extremes.” A little run down but with a friendly atmosphere, the rustic wooden baths still beckoned our weary bones at the end of a long day on the road. A fine, cold mist filled the air as we relaxed into the warmth of thermal energy. And it was good.

That's the Tasman Sea.

Rick: pure and simple

Note: For sunny photos of these locations, check out SV Bella Star's blog post. Just scroll down, you'll see what I mean.

Monday, 6 January 2014

islanding it, again

View from Waewaetorea Island
Our idea of a perfect Christmas is dropping the hook somewhere pretty and chilling out. (Now if we could beam our families there, that'd be even better.) We did have one of our choice family members with us this year, and that was a treat. We drank cheap wine, hiked barefoot in the hills, and ate fresh seafood given to us by friendly Kiwis...  All in all, it was a fabulous way to end the year.

Following are a few gratuitous photos for our loved ones.

A beautiful sunny day...
(Photo courtesy of Dana)
Rick and I enjoying the fresh air
(Photo courtesy of Dana)

Stockings bring a little Christmas cheer to Nyon
Barefoot hiking, it's awesome!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

the road files: the other side of the coin

View from a bus: a little greener a
little smoother
My backpacking partner
in crime and I
I put flip flops on my feet, threw a backpack on my back and tied my hiking shoes to it. Then I hopped on a bus, and went back in time. Before I was a sailor and voyager, I was a different kind of traveller. I was a backpacker: hopping from hostel or pension to hostel, and seeing the world from a train or bus window. Did I like travelling that way? I loved it. As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t do enough of it. It was great to see the world with dusty feet and a worn language phrasebook in my hand.

There are so many ways to experience foreign lands, voyaging by sea is one and backpacking is another. I have spent the past two and a half years voyaging between countries and within them by boat. When my friend Dana suggested going back to my landlubber ways for a girls’ getaway, I jumped at the chance. It got me thinking: how would I compare the two? Is backpacking really so different from voyaging?


In Rotorua, land of thermal activity
Voyaging is all about weather (and fixing things, but that’s another story). Is it safe to stay in that anchorage? Can you leave today for your next destination? What does it look like 3 days from now for longer passages? Is it so windy you can’t leave the boat, or so rolly you can’t sleep at night? Secondly, when you scan a new town, it is to know where the locals buy food and if there is a farmers’ market nearby. You also want to know where there is potable water (if you don’t have a watermaker), and where the nearest hardware store/chandlery/petrol station/Laundromat is. And then you explore what is interesting in the area. This usually includes hiking, historic sites and the best snorkelling holes. To reach town you have to get into a dinghy and row or motor to shore and find a safe spot to leave the dinghy while you’re traipsing on land. (This is harder than you might think in some places.) You cook in your own kitchen (galley) and sleep in your own bed (berth) every night. If Laundromats are absent, or too expensive, you hand wash your linens and clothing. Depending on where you are, you shower in salt water off the boat and rinse with fresh water or you have a sponge bath in the cabin. (Many boats have showers, but we are among those who don’t.) When you’re cruising, it’s true, you are constantly doing maintenance or fixing stuff on your boat, but you have the best seat in the house for viewing sunsets and visiting dolphins. Because all sailors are dependent on the seasons and weather windows, boats tend to cluster in similar areas (unless you choose less trodden locations, we do a bit of both.) You meet many sailors from all over the world. (Though, in Mexico, the majority of sailors are American or Canadian.) As a voyager, it can be easier to assimilate yourself into a community (if you stay long enough) and to meet locals. Voyaging also demands more investment up front. While you’re traveling, you can live very cheaply, but first you need a boat. That costs money, how much depends on your budget and what you think you can’t live without.


Hanging out by the lakeside in Taupo
When you’re backpacking, your main concern is where the bus stops and when it leaves. The weather is irrelevant. You carry everything you need on your back between destinations. You eat out a lot, or you cook in communal kitchens if you are the hostelling type. You typically sleep in bunk beds with an international array of mostly young people (unless you get a private room). You shower in communal bathrooms. You step out of the hostel, and walk everywhere. You visit the sites and join in adrenaline inducing activities. (Although many cruisers do this too, there are plenty of built-in adrenaline boosters simply while sailing in bad weather.) There are countless opportunities to meet other travellers. In a way it’s easier to meet others as you share long tables and sleeping areas. They come from everywhere, but in New Zealand at least, the majority of them are German and Dutch. As a backpacker, you don’t always mix with locals, you tend to clump your way through towns with other backpackers. Again, just like cruisers, it depends on your personality and preferences. When you travel and meet strangers, you have the ability to quickly bond and form strong friendships. Personally, I find that the friendships I have made as a cruiser are longer lasting, than the passing friendships in the backpacking crowd.

Hunting for graffiti art
Voyagers share similar experiences and have their own lingo. So do backpackers. And both groups do experience a lot of the similar pleasures and challenges that come with being a foreigner in a new country. For many years, we have spent a lot of time with other sailors. Since 2011, we've been sailing offshore, that’s “our normal”. It has been a while since our form of travelling has been considered crazy, odd, or wild. When I recently hung out with adventurous backpackers who thought sailing across the Pacific was the coolest thing since the invention of toast, it reminded me that I belong to a rather small subculture of wanderers.

Resting after a very demanding dip
in the Spa park hot pools
The more you travel, the more you see the world for what it is, not what you think it is. Your journey can be with a backpack or on a sailboat, and when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter which you choose. They differ in important respects, but ultimately, they both reflect a thirst for adventure and a love of travel. Basically, they are two sides of the same coin. While I am hooked on voyaging, I will always have a bit of the backpacker in me.

All these photos were taken on our road trip to Taupo and Rotorua. We stayed in hostels, and explored the nearby Waitomo Caves as well. Good times were had, and while Dana forged ahead for a few more days, I returned to Rick and the boat, content.


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