Archive for 'Misc Topics'

We’re published!

Dallas and I got our first big break (haha) thanks to knowing people in high places in Boston. We have a small piece about our experience in Swan Island in the October issue of SAIL magazine. It should be in newsstands right now for those of you who would like to check it out. Hopefully there will be more to come.


Here are some answers to questions from Amber in Kansas City…

Q:  Where did the term "landlubber" originate?  I’ve always heard "land lover" and I understood that.  But then when I read "lubber" it sent my head a-spinnin’.

A:  I’ve wondered the same thing, but I had to Google this one.  I found this answer on a UK website called The Phrase Finder.  It seems to agree with the entry information on the word origin, and it sounds like the term has been around for a while.  Even before "modern technology" sailing was a world unto itself.

The word *landlubber*, first recorded in the late 1690s, is formed from *land* and the earlier *lubber*. This *lubber* dates from the fourteenth century and originally meant ‘a clumsy, stupid fellow; lout; oaf’. By the sixteenth century it had developed the specialized sense ‘an unseamanlike person; inexperienced seaman’, which is the same sense as *landlubber* and was eventually combined with *land* to emphasize the unfamiliarity-with-the-sea aspect.

*Lubber* itself is probably related to or derived from *lob*, a word also meaning ‘a clumsy, stupid fellow; lout’, which is chiefly an English dialect form but occasionally appears in America (for example: "He is generally figured as nothing but a lob as far as ever doing anything useful…is concerned" — Damon Runyon). Though *lob* is not found until around 1500, somewhat later than *lubber*, *lob* is clearly related to words in other Germanic languages meaning ‘a clumsy person’.
From The Mavens’ Word of the Day (October 9, 1997)

Q:  Why did you have to post a bond in Bora Bora?  I’m not trying to pry in too personal, I was just curious what the purpose of the bond was, and if you had any other bonds at other destinations?

A:  Let’s just say that Lauren and Tiff have a reputation that precedes them (just kidding).  Actually, whether or not you have to pay a bond when entering French Polynesia depends on your country of citizenship (sort of like visa requirements).  All US citizens have to pay about $1350.  The bond is the guarantee that you have sufficient money for a one-way plane ticket back to where you came from.  My understanding is that at one point there were too many people showing up in the islands and not respecting the immigration policies, generally acting like freeloaders, etc. so the bond was instituted to ensure that anyone entering for a visit could return home at their own expense.  An acceptable alternative is to have a pre-paid return ticket (like most tourists would have).

Q:  Are you a day ahead of us back here at home?  Have you passed the International Date Line?

A:  Taking daylight savings time into account, we’re 5 hours earlier than Kansas City right now.  For sailors, the time in Greenwich, England (Greenwich Mean Time / GMT / UTC / Universal Coordinated Time), which is at zero degrees longitude, is important because it’s used for radio schedules, celestial navigation publications, etc.  By using this standard time zone, people all over the world can reference events by converting this standard time to their own time zone, depending on their location.  It’s much easier than having US publications in a US time zone, European publications in a European time zone, etc.  The time difference between where you are and Greenwich is based on the speed of the earth’s rotation (how fast the sun moves over the surface of the earth), and is one hour for each 15 degrees of longitude (24 hours for all 360 degrees).  That way everybody has the sun as high in the sky as it gets at sometime around 12 pm.  The international dateline is exactly on the other side of the world from Greenwich, England at 180 degrees longitude and is diverted a little bit so that countries split by the 180 degree longitude line (Fiji, Tuvalu, and others not so nearby) can be completely on one side of it.  The dateline also meanders quite far to the east in the north Pacific for reasons I’m not familiar with.  We’ll cross the date line when we’re sailing between Niue and Tonga later this month or early next month.

Q:  Big Question!!!!  Are you guys planning on diving the Great Barrier Reef?  I haven’t seen anything about Australia in the site’s plans, but for avid divers isn’t it a dream?  And you’ll pretty much be right there, right?  Just curious.

A:  Yes.  We’re hoping to do that.  Where exactly we cross the reef depends on our route after New Zealand, which is far from finalized.  Recently Australia has been making things a bit more difficult for visiting boats and New Guinea would be an interesting place to see, so our route may go something like New Zealand – Fiji – Vanuatu – New Guinea – Australia – Indonesia – etc. but that’s just one possibility.  Many of the popular tourist destinations in Australia (e.g. Sydney) are farther south than is convenient for us to sail given our current plans.  Although we have a high-level route based on the seasons, where exactly we’re going to stop isn’t always easy to predict because of what we learn along the way from other sailors, locals, and our own research.


Here are answers to some more good questions.  The first few are from Dawn and the last one is from Margo.

Q:  How do you dispose of your trash? How do you keep it from smelling if you have to store it?

A:  Good question.  First, there are regulations that allow us to throw some of it overboard when we’re offshore.  Less than 12 miles offshore, no garbage dumping is allowed.  Between 12 and 25 miles, you can dump some things if they’re ground to less than one inch.  We don’t have a trash grinder like a cruise ship would, so that really don’t apply to us.  More than 25 miles offshore, you can dump most things except plastic and synthetic materials.  When we’re that far offshore we toss things like paper, cardboard, organic waste, and tin cans (with holes punched in them so they don’t float) overboard.  Plastics and things that seem like they won’t decompose or aren’t metal go into a trashbag.  We keep the trashbags in the port bow locker and take them ashore for disposal when we reach land.  We don’t generate that much trash, so there are usually never more than a couple bags waiting to go ashore.  It’s free to take trash ashore in most places, but occasionally there’s a charge.

Q:  Do you vote on when your going to move on from a place?

A:  Yes.  We generally talk over what might be the next stop, how interested we are in spending time there given what we’ve learned about it, and how interested we are in staying put.  We learn things along the way from other cruisers, locals, the internet, and books.  We also have a loose overall itinerary that allows us to leave for New Zealand from Tonga before the hurricane season is over.

Q:  Some pics of the living quarters would be interesting to see.

A:  OK…  Here are a few inside pics…

DSC01818 Port side of the salon

DSC01827 Starboard side of the salon

DSC01830 Galley

DSC01831 Our cabin.  The bunk is to the right and there are some small shelves below it.

DSC01832 Queen size bunk (there are four).  Lauren and I are in the port forward cabin, Tiff & Wes have the starboard forward, tools, parts, and hardware are in the port aft, and dive gear, folding bikes, etc. are in the starboard aft.

Q:  I have been thinking about a lot about weather and perceptions of paradise both real and imagined and wondered if you could give me your thoughts. It started with a remembrance of a man I used to work with. He had spent several years as a youngster living on an island in the South Pacific. His father was in the US Navy and he was stationed there. He used to tell me about how much he hated living there. He said people think it’s paradise but they are so wrong. After walking around the island, which took him about 45 minutes, there was absolutely nothing to do. His big game was kicking an empty can of Spam around on the beach and wishing something would come up out of the ocean and attack him…or swim away with him or anything! Everyday was the same….same weather…same food..same people etc. He said it was dirty(waste of course is a big problem) and people were so bored that all they could do was drink to drown their sorrows. And why do people who live on an island surrounded by fish eat Spam and so much meat? Now obviously that was his view as a 10 year old.

A:  This is a another good question.  The book Sex Lives of Cannibals that we mentioned definitely addresses this.  A long question deserves a long answer, so here goes…

I really think the answer boils down to a matter of personal definition of the word paradise. I think paradise should be naturally beautiful and my concept of beauty includes the places we’ve been visiting recently.  I think paradise should be more warm than cold, but not too hot.  That fits the places we’ve been visiting recently as well, especially since we’re here during their winter (summer is a different story in some places).  I think paradise should give you some space and time to reflect, think, and create.  That requires you to not spend all your time working, and we have that covered right now, although aside from the lack of a dense population, it has nothing to do with where we’re at.  I think paradise should be capable of providing some intellectual stimulation and entertainment.  We’re finding that here by meeting people and learning the local culture and history, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t tire of a particular place if we were stuck there indefinitely.

In the specific case of some of these island "hells" in the South Pacific, there seem to be some common themes.  One is that Western culture has been heavily imported.  There’s nothing wrong with Western culture per se, and the locals certainly like things like air conditiong, Spam, etc.  The problem can be that Western culture was developed in areas that have things like lots of space for trash dumps, lots of fertile ground for high-productivity food development, easy access to large markets for selling goods profitably and buying goods cheaply, large tax bases to support complex governments, and large, skilled workforces to provide the highly specialized labor needed to produce the goods and wealth of "first world" economies.  An atoll really doesn’t have any of these things, and although living off of fish and coconuts sounds good, it takes a lot of work and isn’t quite as rich of an experience from a luxuries and consumer perspective.  Within the context of Western continents, they’re financially poor and resource poor, though we’re finding that they’re often rich in social skills, confidence, community, and generosity.

Another imporant factor is that colonial countries (US, western Europe, Japan, China, etc.) have historically run colonies and spheres of influence for their own benefit (they’re putting all the effort and money in, right?).  It doesn’t benefit a colonial power to "own" a bunch of islands where the people have a subsistence existence and don’t move money (unless you want to use an island or two for nuclear testing, which is another story).  In general, it’s in the colonial power’s interest to put the people to work producing goods that can be bought cheaply and then sold for a good price in the first world, and then to sell them first world products from home to spend their wages on.  Slaves or foreign workers were brought in to fill no-education-required jobs when the productivity of the local population wasn’t sufficient (Caribbean, Fiji, etc. to produce copra, sugarcane, tropical fruits & plants, phosphate, etc.).  I’m not saying at all that the locals don’t love Spam from a can instead of hard work catching yet another fish for dinner.  They do, but it’s not too hard to see how the interaction with "civilized" countries can leave an island nation as something less than a paradise.  Our understanding is that things are more pleasant here in French Polynesia primarily because the French spent a lot of money here when they were doing nuclear testing in the Tuamotus and are now continuing to pour very large amounts of money into the local government/economy as a sort of concession.


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.


Here are answers to a few questions from Margo and Patsy…

Q: Do you guys experience boat-lag (like jet-lag)?

A: We don’t have a problem with jet lag for a couple of reasons.  First, we never cross more than one time zone in a day.  In general, timezones are 15 degrees of longitude or approximately 900 miles wide, which is well below our best distance in a day (over 200 nm in one day during our Galapagos-Marquesas crossing).  That means that the time doesn’t change by more than one hour at once for us.  Second, and probably equally important, we don’t have a fixed schedule that starts with an alarm clock going off at a particular time.  We tend to wake up based on the rising sun, and even if we changed our clocks to mark passing into a new timezone, the change in the time of sunrise is pretty small from day-to-day so we adjust slowly.

Q: Dallas wrote about the “signs of mankind” that you all had seen on the water and I wondered about all the plastic we hear so much about. Have you seen any plastic nastiness……water bottles or soda bottle rings etc. floating around?

A: Yes and no.  We saw a lot of floating plastic trash in Panama and haven’t seen much here in the Pacific.  I think there are two reasons for this.  One, there are fewer people out here polluting than there are in North and South America.  Second, the floating plastic trash is carried by ocean currents.  Since we neared the Galapagos, we’ve been in an area where the current is generally flowing east-to-west over a wide area and not allowing trash to collect.  If you Google ocean currents of the world, you’ll see that the large oceans basically have circular current patterns in each hemisphere, with local variations.  Because of the currents, some places collect a lot of floating trash and others collect very little.  Here in French Polynesia, we’re in a part of the ocean that collects
 very little trash, but there are places where the amount of trash is considerable.  You can also see from the ocean current pictures that ocean trash is not a local problem.  It can come from anywhere and end up almost anywhere.  As a side note, ocean currents are also pretty interesting for their extremely important effects on weather and the earth’s overall thermal equilibrium (distributing the energy that comes from the sun).
Q: What does the S/V stand for at the beginning of the name of a boat/ship?

A:  My understanding is the S/V stands for Sailing Vessel.  M/V is for Motor Vessel.