Monday 29 October 2012

Cruising Sailors Dream Ten Years Sail

Here is the story of sailing couple Cedric and Janet Miller, to not only warm the heart of every aspiring cruiser, but to excite and ignite their own desire to push on with the planning of their own 'Adventure of a Lifetime'.

As Janet states herself you will 'never regret doing it!' which ties in with my own affirmation of getting on with your planning to head for the high seas.

This column comes from the Toronto Star:

 'At an age when many people their age were slowing down and dusting off an easy chair, Cedric and Janet Miller, recently married and just retired, spent $300,000 on a 42-ft. ocean-going yacht and set sail for their Sea of Dreams.

That was 10 years ago and, since then the Canadian couple from Oakville, Ontario have made their way from Sweden, where they picked up their custom-built sailboat, to the Caribbean island of Curacao, where Trillium Wind awaits them for another winter of adventure.

Trillium Wind on Passage, Norway to Shetland Islands

They’ve spent three-to-five months a year at sea, and Cedric, 74 and Janet, 66, believe they have another two or three years of cruising left. Then they plan to trade in their wandering life for winters in Myrtle Beach.

“We are very lucky to have been able to do this,” says Cedric. “The places we’ve seen and the people we’ve met have been amazing.”

If luxury living is a state of mind, the richness of their experience would put them in the top tier.

The two have feasted on the simple pleasures of life at sea, from the ancient and pleasingly elegant rituals that make boats move, to the joy of waking up in a deserted cove.

They have lived contentedly in a space the size of two big pickup trucks and endured the fear of violent storms and difficult ocean passages.

For an average cost of about $1,500 a month to live aboard and maintain their boat, they have seen and done things most people don’t experience.

They have travelled 10,000 seas miles at a leisurely pace, from the jagged fjords of Scandinavia to the secluded coves of the Greek islands. Following a trade wind crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, they have spent the past four years wandering through the Caribbean.

This year, they may visit Columbia and Panama.

The adventure began in 2000, when the two, each divorced with grown children, got married.

Janet had sold her share of a heavy equipment business and Cedric started easing into semi-retirement from his marine insurance brokerage.

Janet shelterting, rainy day in the Baltic 
Both had sailed on Lake Ontario for years. Cedric had been a member of several yacht clubs, including the Oakville Yacht Squadron, where he was Commodore in 2002. After exploring both sides of the lake, it was time to look further afield. “We both felt that we wanted more,” Cedric says.

They broadened their experience, helping friends move boats down the Intracoastal waterway to Florida and chartering boats in the Caribbean.

In 1997, Cedric joined the flotilla of boats that travelled to Newfoundland to celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s landing.

They took an offshore sailing course to learn about tides, heavy weather sailing and ocean navigation.

Their adventures built up their confidence and were a test of whether they could live at close quarters for long periods.

In the end, they found the perfect boat while cruising in the Maritimes one summer with friends who had a 31-ft. boat built in Sweden by Comfort Yachts.

Negotiating a Scottish Lock
The Millers were impressed by the boat’s ability to handle rough weather and its comforts. They ordered a 42-ft. version in 2000, the year they married. They took delivery in July, 2002.

A 42-foot boat doesn’t offer the luxury of a super yacht — it’s more like camping at sea, Cedric says. But what you do get is luxurious in its simplicity and meticulous in craftsmanship. The interior is warmed by teak. There is heating, but no air-conditioning and three double berths. The master berth has an en suite toilet and walk-in shower. The couple spent $3,000 on a water-maker that makes eight gallons of fresh water an hour from seawater.

The galley has a gimballed stove and oven, so it swings and stays upright even when the boat is sailing on an angle. There is a fridge, hot and cold water and a double stainless steel sink all within easy reach of the folding teak dining table. This year, they added a TV, but not a microwave.

The navigation centre has a full size chart table and a complete complement of electronics, including a satellite phone, Global Positioning System (GPS) chart-plotter and radar. A powerful 55-horsepower engine drives the boat when there’s no wind, and, for ease of handling, the main sail rolls up inside the mast.

The plan was to bring Trillium Wind back to North America within two years, but after taking delivery of the boat and spending the first summer poking around the coasts of Sweden and Norway and some of the 500 islands in the Danish archipelago, the plan changed.

The Millers felt comfortable with their skill and quickly became members of the cruising fraternity, what Janet calls “a gypsy caravan afloat.” This network gave them access to the cruising community’s collective wisdom — the best anchorages, must-see sites, where to shop, and restaurants not to miss. Many doubts were laid to rest.

“We absolutely loved it,” Janet says. “It showed us, how much you really need to enjoy life, which is not that much. You realize that, at the end of the day, you don’t need millions.”

Cedric on long distance from Swedish phone booth
Friends joined them for parts of the journey, they tagged along with cruising groups for other parts, and, on others, went it alone. There have been bad times — a wretched 220-mile crossing of the North Sea from Norway to the Shetland Islands, when they almost turned around. Janet was knocked unconscious during a storm in the Bay of Biscay and probably needed stitches. But they couldn’t make port easily and so had to do with first aid. The cut healed on its own.

They visited The Shetland and Orkney islands, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales, the Channel Islands, Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Majorca, Malta, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Israel, The Canaries, and they joined a flotilla across the Atlantic to St. Lucia.

“We thought we’d buy a boat and do the Caribbean,” says Cedric. “The sailing is secondary. It’s really about who you are with, sharing the experience.”

Here's what Janet has to say about their 'adventure of a lifetime':
Luxury living is a state of mind. Janet Miller sums up the experience of 10 years of cruising in Europe and now the Caribbean aboard Trillium Wind:

We sailed in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, then crossed the North Sea. All those wonderful places from stories and nursery rhymes: John O’ Groats in Scotland. We kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland. We saw Penzance in Cornwall. The pier in Portsmouth where I’d danced the night away as a teenager. Rally Portugal with 24 boats racing from Plymouth across the Bay of Biscay . . . how nuts was that?

Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, North Africa. So many places to see. Some bizarre, lots beautiful, all wonderful and interesting. Malta where not one clock agrees with the other. Through the Corinth Canal in Greece — who would have thought we would ever do that — to the Greek Islands. Delos was one of the most amazing, enchanting places you could ever hope to be. Rhodes. The Marble Lions of Naxos. Magical!

Memories, not always that big: Cobble stone roads, flower baskets, narrow streets, street vendors. Hundreds of goats on a tiny island with a tiny bay. One family lives there; they had laid moorings for sailors to tie up.

In Turkey, a parsley salad made by a man with a knife in a shed. It can’t be duplicated, no matter how hard we try. Sarcophagi, castles, fortresses and battlements. Sunsets, sunrises. Memories for our old age.

If you can do it, do it, you won’t regret it!'

Article courtesy Adam Mayers, Toronto Star, images courtesy Janet and Cedric Miller 

You can read much more about the cruising lifestyle and sailing the 'Adventure of a Lifetime' in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website 

Monday 22 October 2012

Sailboat Steering by the Stars - Night Watch Hand Helming

Sailing between The Galapagos Islands and The Marquesas archipelago we had the wonderful experience of night sailing with no moon and viewing the incredible southern night sky. With absolutely no degradation from other light sources, the heavens were lit up by a myriad of stars and galaxies not normally seen anywhere near land and all its artificial light.

Visualise this over the complete canopy
The following extract is from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' and my initial attempts at steering by the stars:  

'All this starlore stuff is running around her captains head and he reckons he might try steering our little ship by the stars on his watch. He selects a group of stars close to her masthead, and that he can recognise easily. Studying his star chart, it turns out to be the planet Jupiter, with some other stars in the background, forming a pattern that he can identify instantly. The warm night breeze is well round on her port quarter, and she is gambolling along at an easy eight plus knots.

All lights are doused, including the white masthead light, so there is just the soft red glow of the Autohelm station and the faint glimmer of the compass light. She is taken off autopilot and, after steering for a few minutes on her present heading to familiarise himself with her motion - the way she comes off the waves, her pitch and yaw, and how far the dim masthead is swaying through its arc – he covers the compass with its plastic hood and lifts his eyes to his chosen star pattern. She is holding exactly on the starmark and behaving exactly as before.

There is no moon and the canopy from horizon to horizon is a cornucopian mass of stars that he has never seen this way before. Gazing amazedly at this twinkling carpet, cascading 360 degrees, all the way down to where the seas' black knife slices, he passes up his thanks for being able to be part of this wondrous spectacle.     

Cockpit at Night
After a minute or two, the temptation to have a peek at the compass becomes overpowering. A slight prickling in his armpits and a light sheen on his forehead, drives his right hand forward toward the binnacle. He watches helplessly, unable to deny, as his fingers grope for the cover. A snap lift of the hood reveals she is exactly on course – amazing! Dropping the hood back on he manages to steer for five minutes this time before succumbing, and stealing a glance to reassure himself they are still on course. Ten minutes later, another peek reveals nothing has changed.

As the increments of time increase, her captain gains more confidence. Jupiter and companions remain utterly unmoved all this time and beam down their twinkling radiance benevolently on our little ship, and her now somewhat more comfortable captain. He is enjoying himself now and taking in more of his surroundings, as opposed to fixating his eye permanently on his sky guide. After an hour he is quite relaxed, hand lightly on the wheel, and glancing upward only occasionally, to check that Jupiter and company have not run away! Over a four hour watch, travelling at eight knots or so, she will have moved westward not more than half of one degree, i.e. thirty nautical miles, so any change of her position in relation to the stars would be so infinitesimally small, there would be no visible variance.

Sails taught, gently swaying as she creams through the dark and velvety water, our little ship is all quiet. Occasionally, a line slaps against metal, a block rattles against its line as the tension comes off momentarily, and somewhere below the light squeaking creak of wood on wood drifts up the companionway, along with a short snort from the depths of slumber. Billowing in over her port quarter rail, the soughing tropical wind streams into her sails, completing the symphony – utter peace.

Very small portion of night sky with Orion 
‘This is more like it’, she thinks, ‘this is how it must have been back then’. Carving through the night, her unseeing prow thrusting forever onward, Masefields’ famous lines emerge: ‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by’. What words, what evocation.

‘Wake up, you idealistic moron, you’ve got work to do!’

Her captain starts, glances at his watch and slips below to wake the next watch. ‘All’s well, nothing to report’ he relays to the new watch keeper. Exchanging a few pleasantries in the dark, he pads off to his bunk, preferring to keep his new found skill to himself for the moment, savouring it until tomorrow. En route to oblivion another line of Masefields floats before him:

‘To add more miles to the tally, of grey miles left behind, in quest of that one beauty, God put me here to find.’

Poetry lines courtesy John Masefield, images courtesy google 

You can read my whole book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' by downloading it from my website