Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical
Questions and Answers
We have sailed 38-50 ft. vessels out of Southern Yacht Charters in Mobile
and Sunsail in BVI. Another couple and My wife and I have sailed out of
The Moorings in BVI and in fact are traveling to St. Lucia this Saturday to
Charter a Moorings 405 which we intend to sail to St. Vincent for a week.
You say you are going to "St. Lucia this Saturday to Charter a Moorings 405
which we intend to sail to St. Vincent for a week". Most boaters avoid St.
Vincent like the plague! I remember that it had few anchorages, it was deep
right up to the shore (100 yards out and over 300 feet deep), and the natives
did not like cruisers. I recommend you sail from St. Lucia to Bequia (one
long day). Bequia is wonderful! You could then go over to Mustique as well.
If you really like day long sails you could actually go as far as the Tobago
Cays and back in a week, but you would be sailing pretty much all the time.
Better still, if you are only going for a week, why not just stay in St.
Lucia? There are several nice anchorages and interesting things ashore.
You could also go north to Martinique. I think the trip is less than 20
miles. You could stop at St. Ann, Fort de France or go all the way up north to St. Pierre. Very expensive island, though -- just like being in France. Also
helps to speak French.
My main question would center around your experience with
regard to Medical care availability in the Islands. I suffer from Coronary
Artery Disease and suffered a Heart Attack a couple of years ago which led
to my retirement. Otherwise my health is good. Do you have any
experience with the Quality and availability of health care facilities out
side the US? Say in the US Virgins, etc.?
You asked about medical care, and you probably picked the worse place as an
example. The hospital on St. Thomas is terrible. People go in with minor
problems and die. Anyone on St. Thomas who gets sick goes to Puerto Rico.
Does your FAA retirement give you access to military hospitals? Remember
there is a large US naval base in Puerto Rico. Our cruising friends who were
retired military went there.
For the most part people who get sick in the Caribbean come back to the US
for treatment. There are good private hospitals in Venezuela but most other
places are third world. We had insurance which would air ambulance us
back to the States in an emergency.
Sorry to deliver the bad news.
In Article 3 you talked about a "normal bottom job" in salt water. Being lake sailors, what does this mean?
Scraping off the old antifoul bottom paint and putting on new antifoul paint.
Maybe repairing a few blisters. Cleaning and lubricating the thru hulls.
Having the prop trued if necessary. Replacing zincs.
We are from Toronto, but presently living in Ft. Lauderdale looking for a
boat to sail the Bahamas, Caribbean and as far south as Venezuela.
Thanks to your very enjoyable and informative articles we are
pursuing Endeavour 40s.
We have looked at a few Endeavour 40s down here and have a few
questions we hope that you can answer.
The Perkins 4-108 engine: Was it adequate to push you through chop and
wind safely? How often did you wish it was a larger sized engine?
Yes, it would be nice to have a larger engine, but the 4-108 is pretty standard
in boats that size and age. I have never seen an E-40 with anything else. In
many cases on our trip it was barely adequate.
The Endeavour's reputation for leaking, especially around the ports:
Did yours have this problem, and if it did, how did you resolve it?
In the first two years that we owned the boat we removed and re-sealed every
port light, hatch and deck prism. After that we had no leaks. Maybe the
original sealant was inferior.
You had a Nilsson windlass: Where and how was it mounted? We are
concerned about the large hatch covering the anchor well.
Ours was factory mounted on the cap rail at the bow. I would not
recommend this in that it was extremely hard to work on. I would mount a
horizontal one in the bottom of the anchor well. I have seen an E-40 where
the single anchor well hatch was made into two (fore and aft) and a
horizontal windlass was mounted over the aft section on a piece of stainless
stretched from one cap rail to the other.
There are a few other things to check specifically if your are looking at
Endeavour 40s. Anyone interested in one should probably call and discuss
the particular boat with us.
My wife and I have been reading your postings with great interest. The idea of extended sailing (cruising as I have learned) has been kicking around in the back of our minds for a long time now, and we finally decided to set ourselves a plan and do it. We are however _total_neophites_ in our knowledge about sailing and living on boats. All we do have in our favor is an intense desire to "get away", and hopefully enough time to learn (our son will be in school for several more years).
We have talked to a friend who lived down in the Florida Keys and got some
sketchy information (from a fishing boat perspective), but we came away
with more questions than we started. My biggest concern is how to
maintain a modest (but reasonable) income while hopefully spending a lot
of time away from land. Since I work with computers in the business
environment, I hope that consulting and tele-computing will be an option
when we start to sail.
Any comments, suggestions, recommended reading, encouragement, or
information you could pass our way would be greatly appreciated.
First let me address the question on "recommended reading". The books by
Eric Hiscock and Len and Larry Pardey are good, but they deal with round-
the-world type cruising. I don't know of any that deal with the type of
cruising we did. Also when reading these books you must keep the author's
preferences/style in mind. For example, the Pardeys don't believe in engines,
refrigeration or toilets. Not my style -- maybe it's yours!
Some specific titles:
"Living Aboard: The Crusiing Sailboat As A Home", by Jan Moeller
"The Care and Feeding of the Offshore Crew", by Lin Pardey. The latest
edition of this is entitled "The Care and Feeding of the Sailing Crew"
The best source of books (IMHO) dealing with any aspect of sailing/cruising
is Blue Water Books in Ft. Lauderdale. I suggest you give them a call and let
them recommend some reading.
You asked "how to maintain a modest (but reasonable) income while
hopefully spending a lot of time away from land. Since I work with
computers in the business environment, I hope that consulting and tele-
computing will be an option when we start to sail." Yea, all of us who work
with computers hope that, but, at the moment it's not possible. Maybe when
true satellite cellular service is here we will be able to telecompute from
anywhere in the world. Existing systems are too slow and too expensive to be
practical. Maybe if you had some truly unique skill and your clients had to
pay whatever you demanded.
I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write such a great,
informative home page on cruising. You addressed a lot of the things
I was wondering about as I face my own upcoming mid-life crisis here
in Calgary, Alberta. If you write a book, I'll buy it!
I've been thinking about it for a long time, and will be doing some
bareboats this spring out on the west coast, and I realize that its
not the same as cruising, but I have pre-school age kids to deal with
You mentioned you'd consider a catamaran next time -- I'd be interested in
hearing more about choosing a catamaran as a cruising boat, even though
my engineering conservatism leads me to worry, perhaps unduly, over the
possible capsizing (even though I know the moment-arm is tremendous),
but the improved stability and room may just lead me to disregard my
natural concerns, and just beef up my liferaft and radio aids!
Towards the end of our cruise (1993) we started seeing a lot of the new
French cats. We met several people who had sailed theirs across from France
to the Caribbean without a problem. They sure have a lot of room and seem
to be very stable. Most people don't seem to worry about the capsizing thing
anymore. However, they do build them with a hatch in the bottom so you
could bet out.
One negative would seem to be the beam if you like marinas. Most are going
to charge you for two slips since that's what you take up.
Lots of people seem to have the new cats in their charter fleets (I even saw an
ad that said Dennis Conner owned one in some charter fleet). Why not try
one out for a week? That's our plan.
Last year we bought a C&C Landfall 35 (1982) and are outfitting her for a
planned 1 year cruise down the Atlantic coast to the Caribbean,
beginning in July 1997. Needless to say, we have been avidly following
We are tentatively planning to head out the Erie Canal, departing from
our marina in the Toledo area. Did you buy your boat in Florida, or
move it down from the Great Lakes? I gather that you started your
journey from Florida, but do you have experience with the Erie Canal or
information from others who have traveled this route? I'm having a
surprisingly difficult time getting info regarding this.
We had "Down Time" trucked to Florida because at the time we were both
working in Boston and could not take the time off for the trip. Actually we
bought the boat in Florida and trucked her to Ohio and then back. I think
the Erie canal would be a neat trip and would recommend you go that way
rather than trucking. I know several people who have gone this way. You
could also go around through Lake Michigan and down the Illinois River. I
know people who went that way too. In either case, I think cruising the
waterways of the US would be a lot of fun.
There is a PBS series entitled "On the Waterways" that covers the three year
cruise of a motoryacht in the eastern waterways of the US. Very interesting.
You can probably get it at your local library.
For info on the canals in New York contact New York State Canal
Corporation, P.O. Box 189, Albany, NY 12201-0189 800-4-CANAL-4.
We've been debating what to do about improving storage in our galley.
We have an enormous ice chest, with an Alder Barbour cold machine. I'd
like to add insulation and convert some of the area into useable dry
storage. Any advice? And HOW did you store 100 bottles of wine
(really, you have hit on some of our most baffling dilemmas). We were
thinking bilge, but haven't come upon a good immobilization scheme. Do
you have any galley storage ideas to pass along?
Golly, most people want a bigger fridge not a smaller one! I don't know of
any simple way to add insulation or to convert part of the fridge to dry
storage. Cases that I know of involved tearing out the entire box and
rebuilding what they wanted.
How big is the box (cubic feet)? Does the Adler Barbour do a good job? Will
it do a good job in the tropics?
Here is a little experiment: Fill your box with something (food, books,
anything to fill the volume). Let the temperature stabilize. Take a digital
watch and log when the compressor goes on and off for an hour. Calculate
the percentage of time that the compressor runs. If it is above 30% you need
more insulation. You may find it as high as 50%. This will eat your batteries
very quickly (6 amps/hour x 24 hours x 50% = 72 amp/hours per day).
OK, OK, everybody has asked about the wine storage. Here is how we did it.
An Endeavour 40 has three huge drawers under the v-berth. Each held a
case (12 bottles) of wine. The main salon has a settee on each side with two
or three drawers (configurations vary) under each. We removed the drawers
and found a space about 4 - 5 inches deep running under the drawers. We
could get two cases on each side with the bottles placed head to toe. Now we
are up to 7 cases or 84 bottles. The remaining wine we wrapped in bubble
wrap and place in a small plastic laundry basket. The basket was placed on
the cabin sole under the dinning table and lashed to the table's cross
As we drank the bottles under the settees we put the empties back to keep
the space full.
There is probably more storage on your boat than you think. Look under
drawers, under floorboards in lockers, behind settees. A little here and a
little there adds up to a lot.
Diane is working on an article on the galley that will add some more storage
I read through your story and envy you very much. Although one question comes to mind.
Why did you come back ? Isn't there any opportunities of consulting
careers where you cruised ?
We ran out of money.
We are considering a similar journey, but was hopping for something a bit
more permanent, something were my wife and I could continue working in
our respective fields (i.e. lawyer and Quality management analyst)
Is it realistic ?
For three years we tried to figure out a way to make a decent living while
cruising. No luck. Your land bases skills have very little value in the
cruising world. Can you repair a diesel engine or a refrigerator? Those are
the skills in demand. By far the most common "drop out and go cruising"
occupation we encountered was lawyer. You cannot legally work in any
country outside the US. Lawyers and doctors specifically would need to be
licensed (I guess) to practice. Nurses seem to be in high demand and we
knew several who did work in foreign countries. Apparently the need is so
great the government was willing to give them work permits and licenses.
Maybe you could set up an arrangement for US clients to do work for then
As I said in answer to another question, maybe in a few years the world of
tele-computing will be possible for cruisers with computer skills.
Most people we met had other income sources (retirement, investments,
businesses they owned) or they lived off savings as we did.
We also met people who cruised only part of the year and had jobs the other
part. I remember a couple who had kept their boat in Antigua for 12 years.
They cruised January - June and worked in New York the rest of the year.
Jim & Diane
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