Here are answers to some more good questions.  The one about the stars is from Derek in Texas, and the others are from Dave in Chicago. 

Q:  How much sailing experience did you all have before you set out?

A:  The first time I sailed a boat was on a sea trial to buy a 1977 Catalina 30 in Houston.   I was 20 and had decided to take some time off of college.  Wes joined me, and we lived aboard together and learned about sailboat repair and sailing for a year or so.  After that I went back to school but made occasional visits to our boat Moonwind, where Wes lived aboard for several more years, sailing Galveston Bay and maintaining the boat.

When we were getting ready to sell the boat in 2000, we met a guy in the boatyard who was headed for the Bahamas on a catamaran, and we ended up spending a week or so with him in Nassau and the Exumas.  After that, Wes would organize bareboat charter trips once or twice a year in Florida that either went to the Keys or across the Gulfstream to the Bahamas for 10 days or so.

Wes and Tiff met in Houston, so she’s been along for a lot of the sailing on Moonwind and the charter trips.

Lauren was out for a daysail on Moonwind a long time ago, but other than that, her only chance to get a taste of things was on two charter trips — one from Miami to the Keys and one from Florida to Grand Bahama and Bimini in the Bahamas.


Q:  Are you learning how to fix/patch/repair stuff on the fly or do you have some sort of background that is helpful? 

A:  Lauren and Tiff probably have the most useful educational backgrounds.  Lauren has a Ph.D. in psychology and Tiff is a nurse, so that helps in terms of repairing the crew.  Wes and I have degrees in electrical engineering but designing modern microelectronics isn’t really an extremely useful background for working on a boat.  The engineering work experience and process is somewhat useful, but the most useful background by far is the time we spent fixing up and sailing on Moonwind in Houston.  It was an old boat and almost everything needed attention, so we learned a lot.  That said, when Lauren and I lived aboard Pura Vida for 5 months getting her ready to sail, we had to spend a lot of time online researching nearly every purchase and repair.  There were many, many things we did for the first time, only “getting the hang of it” when completing the job.  Because the marine environment results in people having to do endless maintenance on boats, there are some excellent books on repair that really help.  As you can also infer from my response, sailors are more than happy to share what they’ve learned in the many hours they’ve spent sweating on their boat, so other sailors are also a good resource, both online (Cruisers Forum, etc.) and in person.


Q:  What is one thing you each would have brought with you if you’d known?


(Tiff): Cases of Dr. Pepper, more shorts, ravioli. Pints of cheap whiskey and cigarettes to trade.

(Wes): Kayak.

(Lauren): More cheap food and wine from Panama.

(Dallas): Veggie food.  Island life and vegetarianism don’t mix well. (I do need to mention that Mom sent us off with 12 cases, but it’s a long way from Florida to New Zealand)


Q: What’s the biggest hassle or annoyance for you so far?


(Dallas): Customs/immigration/port officials and processes in Panama.

(Wes): French (the language, not the people).

(Lauren): Cooking in extreme conditions (seas, heat, etc.).

(Tiff): Showering.  Lugging water jugs.


Q: Do you plan on keeping in touch with people you meet (Moana/other cruisers/etc)?

A: Yes.  We keep in touch with other cruisers right now via the magic of e-mail.  Some are headed to New Zealand, and some we may never see again.  I don’t think we’ve met any locals that we’re keeping in touch with.  Moana is a funny example.  He doesn’t use e-mail and when we got his address and said we’d send him something when we get back to the states in a couple of years, he laughed and said don’t bother.  He probably will have moved.  His address, by the way, didn’t have a house number or street, just a name, city, and country.


Q: I realize that you are IN paradise and everywhere has something special/unique to offer, but is there a specific port any of you are particularly excited for?


(Dallas, Tiffany, & Wes): Marquesas.  It’s a beautiful, fascinating place and the end of the longest offshore passage.

(Lauren): Marquesas and New Zealand.  New Zealand also looks really interesting and will be at the end of a potentially rough passage.


Q: Do you see the same night sky where you are that we see in Texas?

A: We see some of the same stars, like the Big Dipper (although it’s partially on the horizon for us now), but we also see ones you don’t see (the Southern Cross), and can’t see some that you can (the North Star).  Think of the earth as a baseball inside a clear beachball with the stars painted on it.  The North Star is above the north pole.  Ignoring horizon effects, rotation of the earth, and seasons you can see about half of the stars on the beachball at any one time, with the center of half you can see being directly above where you’re at on the earth.  We’re about 45 degreees of latitude farther south than Dallas, TX, the half of the beachball we see is moved farther south by the same amount.  The website Your Sky will let you punch in a lat and long and see what the sky looks like there, which is a good way to help with identifying stars.