Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wanderlust on Wandering Dolphin

Wandering Dolphin Sailing South Last Summer
       Back when I still lived on the prairie in Montana when I first started thinking about finally going, about really getting out there cruising, the dream itself became an escape.  It was an escape from the frigid northern Montana winters.  I would sit at my desk reading Latitudes and Attitudes or Cruising World.  I would read all of the new books on sailing and what I called then “How To Make It Happen” books.  The snow would be blowing against the window pane, my feet were snuggled up to a space heater under my desk but  my mind was in the warm breeze blowing off a little Caribbean beach.

Well, we have been living right off that little Beach every winter for five years and again I am reading blogs and books about the cruisers who are not tied to their anchors.  People ask us why we are so keen to leave, and looking at our “frontyard” it really is no surprise that we have kept coming back every winter for five years, and I can appreciate their confusion when we express our desire to leave.  I will answer that question in todays blog.

I am simply not interested in living on a boat in a pretty little anchorage.  I am interested in the voyage.  Wanderlust is really what draws me to this life.  What is over the horizon?  Who will we meet there?  The idea of sailing our own vessel to new places, making landfalls in new countries draws me.  I have always had a wanderlust.  Even before I road my bicycle from Wyoming to Canada and the next year from Canada to Alaska when I was six-teen, the gypsy wanderlust had gripped me.  Sure, I have had long periods in my life where I was tied to the same plot of ground.  I thought that putting down roots was the right way to live.  I thought as a man I was supposed to build a home, a business, and a life that would be secure.  My father told me that roots were good.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they are, for some people.  But through all of those years I still had a wanderlust.  I think some of us are born with it.  Do you really think that all of the explorers just crossed oceans for money or to make a grand name for themselves?  No way!  They all had this same wanderlust.  They wanted to know what was over the horizon.

I was eight or nine the first time I dreamed about crossing an ocean.  Believe it or not it was because I stumbled across the story of the Titanic in the Worldbook Encyclopedia.  I began to think about the ocean, I looked at the globe and imagined going places on the ocean.  I saw it as a huge worldwide path to anywhere.  I read the story of the Kon Tiki and began to draw pictures of the raft I would build myself.  I even convinced my brother to help me.  We nailed a bunch of pallets together.  He kept asking me what my plan was with this raft and finally I took him inside and showed him the Rand McNally road atlas.

“See this Caleb?  Garden creek flows right by our house, it goes into the Platte River, which flows into the Missouri,  which flows into the Mississippi, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico.  We launch this raft right here, and we can go anywhere!”  I  smiled like a mad scientist and he shrugged and helped me haul over another pallet.  Of course the raft we built was much too big to float down a creek so it became a fort where we would defend ourselves against hoards of bloodthirsty imaginary indians and canibals on our own deserted island.

I was 14 the first time I saw the ocean.  We had driven out to California as a family in our VW Camper Van for my brothers wedding on the Queen Mary.  We stopped at Del Mar Beach to camp for the night and even before we got out of the van I could hear the surf breaking on the other side of the dunes.  It sounds like a cliche or trite but I swear it is true, as I walked up that dune I had a lump in my throat like I was about to meet a pretty girl who I had only been sending letters to before that moment.  I topped the dune and there she was.  The vast Pacific ocean slamming her fists on the beach, white water crashing, seagulls screaming.  The hiss as the water flowed back down the sand pulled me closer and I sat down in awe. I was a kid from Wyoming.  The largest body of water I had ever seen was Alcova lake.  Just a little mud puddle in the desert by comparison to what filled my eyes at Del Mar.  I sat there for a very long time and most of that time I was thinking about what lay on the other side.  It boggled my mind that on the other side of what I saw there was another beach in Japan where another kid might be sitting staring this way.  From that point on it was really only a matter of time before I would sail across an ocean.

I have two more charters on Sweetest Thing before Jimmy and I raise the sails on Wandering Dolphin and point her bow south.  She will be sailing out of the hurricane zone, one tack to windward next stop Trinidad.  Jimmy has been landlocked for a couple of years in Wyoming so he will have to get reacquainted with the nuances of an offshore passage.  Rebecca and the kids will be in Washington state visiting family.  When they rejoin WD and myself in Trinidad we will set sail to somewhere new, probably Suriname.

We get a lot of questions about living aboard a small boat with so many kids.  Is there something you would like to hear about?  Drop us a comment.

Captain Tofer

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adventure Awaits!

The day we moved aboard in January 2005

     We have spent the last few months putting money away and dumping yet more money into Wandering Dolphin to get her ready for our future adventures.  It continues to baffle me how quickly a boat can eat up money.  I can say that we feel like she finally  is back to a condition suitable in seaworthiness to safely sail our family anywhere in the world we choose to go.   Please reread that last sentence because there-in lies the cool part of our chosen lifestyle.  Five years ago we sailed into St Thomas completely out of money with a boat that really needed some TLC.  We made a lot of friends.  Honeymoon Bay on Water Island became our home, our neighbors were the other boaters and folks on the island.  Our kids have spent a good portion of their childhoods growing up with kids who called this little bay home during the same time span.  We have watched many of them leave.  Some of them are even as far away as Sicily, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand.  Many of those cruiser kids, and island kids, including our own oldest son Jimmy, have grown into adults and are off at college.
Honeymoon Bay, Water Island, USVI
     In that time Honeymoon Bay has changed very little.  It is still a beautiful little palm lined beach filled with welcoming boaters and, for the most part, very welcoming island dwellers.  As we get ready to spend our last season in Honeymoon we would like to share the process of our next journey with you.  I am going to set a goal of writing a new blog every Wednesday sharing with you our thoughts, our challenges and even our decision making process.

I will keep you informed as to the progress of both getting the boat ready for a significant voyage and the progress of preparing our family for the same.  While we prepare for this voyage keep in mind that our family are not neophytes.  We have lived on Wandering Dolphin for eight years, sailed the US East Coast, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and for the past 5 summers, we have sailed up and down the islands of the Caribbean as far south as Trinidad.  I have also done about 50,000 offshore miles on deliveries, most of those with Jimmy or EmilyAnne as crew.  The reason I mention all of this is not to brag (though we are pretty proud of it :) but to point out that our preparations are based on a lot of real life experience.  I have lately been reading some fantastic blogs written by cruisers who are pretty new to the seapeople (credit to who are certainly not newbees either for that moniker) lifestyle and it is fun to read as these new cruisers learn by mistakes and discover many of the things that we now consider normal everyday daily life.
In our years on the boat we have also drifted away from a lot of the common beliefs that a lot of cruisers live by.  I will address some of those differences as we walk through this preparation process with you all.  

But here is a quick preview; Boat selection: Full keel or performance.
                                                                      Metal or Fiberglass
Watermakers and Fridges
Sailing VS Motoring
Trash and Sewage
  I am sure a lot of those blogs will cause quite a lot of comments and discussion (if anyone reads them).

So what is the plan right now?  Wandering Dolphin will be hauled out one more time in Trinidad at Peake’s this summer.  For once she only has a couple of projects.  The biggest one is that she needs a new Teak cockpit combing made so the big seas don’t wash through the dodger into the cockpit.  We thought about making an aluminum combing but teak is cheaper than aluminum in Trinidad and Jon, the woodworker at Peake’s, is world class.  She also needs a dedicated shelf for our life raft and ditch bag below.
WD's got a new life raft... finally
     We just ordered a new Winslow life raft.  We bought a six person offshore extreme aviation life raft that only weighs 35 pounds, and is vacuum packed so it is certified for three years.  The aviation life raft is the same as the marine one but is made lighter by cutting some of the survival content, we already have a very good ditch bag with those things in it.  The aviation life raft also cost about $1k less.  If you are interested check out Aviation Survival Technology.  AST is a great company and Randy is very well informed and can guide you in the right direction when it comes to offshore survival equipment.  We also purchased an emergency Katadyn desalinator (watermaker) for the life raft on eBay for only about $400.00 (usually they are well over $1000.00)  There are a lot of them on eBay at times that are brand new and just recertified being sold by the company that provides them for the US military. 

When the boat goes back in the water at the end of August we are hoping to sail down to Suriname for the remainder of the hurricane season.  Why?  It sounds like a cool place to visit... errr well a hot, cool place.
Another oldie... with all our kids and Paul and Jacob in the Bahamas 2008
So what is our big voyage going to be?  We would like your input.  Like I said at the beginning of the blog, our family can go anywhere the ocean can take us.  Wandering Dolphin is only limited by her crews temperature requirements... Rebecca has ruled out anywhere with snow year round, though she is hoping to go somewhere where there are at least seasons of cool weather.  We have been in the tropics for a long time.  Here are a few of the thoughts mulling around in our heads.

Ireland: We have friends in Ireland and it sounds like a fun place to visit, we could then also sail Scottland and the rest of the UK.  Make a trip over to Denmark or maybe even visit our friends in Norway for a summer.

The Med. Destination Turkey:  Well what’s to say?  All that history along the way would be great Spain, France, Italy, Greece and we have a lot of friends already scattered about the Med.

Pacific Crossing: New Zealand:  Beck would get her seasons... and we might meet Hobbits!  This would also commit us to the circumnavigation we have talked about for the past ten years.

Pacific Crossing: Southeast Asia:  We have met a lot of cruisers who swear this is the best cruising ground in the world and we could even work and definitely feed the family for a lot less than say... the Med! Also commits us to a circumnavigation.

Pacific Voyage: Panama-to-Galapagos-to-Hawaii-to-Alaska-to-Washington State:  Ends at Beck’s home state and, believe it or not, the home stomping grounds of the majority of our former cruising family friends.

Feel free to give us your thoughts, share with us - it makes it all more fun and interesting.

Thanks for coming along with us!
Captain Tofer and the Crew