The End and Some Thoughts on Cruising

The closer we get to Sydney the closer we come to the end of Jade Akka's travels. Therefore it is time to look back while still rummaging in the engine room every now and then.

A summary after close to two years cruising

«Cruising is a hard earned, but well worth, freedom. The currency to pay is desire, dedication and ability.»

We heard a lot of proverbs in advance, never really understanding the truth in them. They go for example like this: „Cruising is repairing your boat in exotic locations“, „Boats are like buckets with holes that swim in the ocean - and you try to keep them afloat by plugging the leaks with money“, „No ones cares more about your boat than you“, and I guess this may also be true: „The second best event is buying a boat. The best is to sell it“. While cruising is a romantic dream, it’s realization requires skill and endurance. The proverbs place it quite appropriately, as we find now. They miss out on the positive sides, though! „You are living the dream“, „visiting paradise“ certainly also applies. See our "to remember" photos of Jade Akka's 2017/18 travels.

There is no free ride into paradise, as mentioned. We are children of our circumstances and our environment. Only consciously we may cherish the situation we are in - it may feel bad although it’s good. Or it may feel good albeit it’s close to catastrophe. So we hung out in paradise, and things turned seemingly bad. Looking around at the turquoise waters, the palm lined sandy beaches, the ships in the quiet lagoon, the small simple dwellings on shore and the clouds on the horizon and feelings turned anywhere. I had to remind myself so often how privileged we are to experience it. However privilege, it’s the same as back home or in the office: take it good and enjoy, or get sucked in by the problems and get grumpy. It’s the choice we make - deliberate or not - not the place and circumstance we are. So I started to enjoy the engine room work and sticking the head down into the bilges.

In the most beautiful places it remained a challenge to appreciate the beauty around ourselves in the difficult moments. So many small and big obstacles lay in our path that may have deteriorated our mood, made us angry and infuriate. What the sad feels on a wonderful spring day, the locked in when seeing the big open space outside the bars, so did we forget our freedom and dwindle down into grumpiness at times. It is said to be a choice. Rumors are mankind has thought a lot about it. And we watched a movie to see, by chance, how Mandela put it: For we are the captains of our souls. We are lucky to be the captains of our freedom also.

There is a price for freedom. It has been paid too many times in lives. We pay it with many hours of work, exhausting walks to unknown places awaiting questionable results. Add some sleepless nights thinking about issues you never tackled or even thought before. A little price given the big freedom we choose to take. However, we are preparing to change circumstance and environment again. We know we will loose a lot, but again gain new rewards in whatever form. Besides that, we remind ourselfes of all the good things we experienced on our voyage, as written down in the many more lines of blog focusing on the positive.

A summary on yachting with Jade Akka

We were lucky to find Jade Akka and have her as a home. The independence, safety and comfort she gave us can only be underestimated. A few things we think are important when buying a boat: seaworthiness, quality of build and ownership. Well established features are proven, exotic ones are not worth it: pilot house, watermaker, solar and other electricity sources, a solid hull and rig, that’s what makes cruising great. Forget your dream features, they are not worth the costs - the mainstream is a good orientation, dream boats often do not leave harbour.

What we had with Jade Akka that we valued extremely: solid railings, solid anchoring gear, great insulation (did not use the AC once), large fuel and water capacity, space (albeit rather on the too much side for the two of us), independence for months, inside watch with pilot control (pilot house or anything the like), reliable and rather oversize hydraulic(!) auto pilot, cutter rig, active AIS, nice galley, comfortable berths, transom to easily access water & dinghy, engine room making maintenance work easy. Maintenance is always necessary - make sure it’s easy to do, as sometimes it’s more a must than a lust.

Jade Akka furthermore has super nice woodwork, a big cockpit where you can stretch and lie down, a lazzarette for the rough things to store, transom shower, an essential minimum of electrical winches for a boat that size (1-2), always a rail to hold on to on deck, clean and tidy decks to walk forward. One thing we missed: a fish cleaning station at the transom (what a luxury!). One thing we dislike: sailing downwind in weak winds - the heavy displacement makes anything else comfortable but sailing downwind in weak winds.

Did we find the used boat a disadvantage? By far no, because we had great previous owners. Everybody improved and optimized. However, the last months of the previous owner (before passing away due to cancer) and the delivery captain showed - just a short period without tender love and care (TLC) left bad, but recoverable, marks. New boats we met under way had often similar issues or even grave ones, like loosing rudder control. Given the plastic waste and other environmental issues associated with boating, a new boat is environmentally not acceptable. There are too many used boats - often under used - that are well worth being take care of.

New cost optimized mass production boats (Bavaria, Jeanneau etc) most likely need a lot of upgrades and testing before cruising, and they may never gain the safety margins built into the hulls of more expensive vessels. It will be interesting to see how current day low cost production boats will perform in ten years on the barefoot circuit. The cruisers we met so often bought older fiberglass boats based on the assumption that these less cost optimized boats have more stable hulls. For the high end vessels the test-thoroughly-before-you-leave-for-circumnavigation certainly also applies, as we heard. Btw: does anyone recycle GRP (glass fibre reinforced plastic) boats? As far as we know, it's expensive and thus not done.

If anything, then a boat gives you the deep appreciation for the durable. In urban life and on TV everything seems eternal, longevity being the norm. Wear and tear is not fashionable, not shown, and in the benign inland conditions not always obvious. It is not at all on boats - and life. Salt, wind, temperature differences, beating waves etc all take their visible tolls. It's humbling and rewarding at the same time. Humbling when even steel rigging breaks as on Oso, rewarding when after hours of maintenance the big freedom is ahead once again. "The only constant in life is change" get's a different meaning if your home erodes and the joints squeak. But coming from this so different world of steady job, high quality homes, great health system, well maintained cities and landscapes this trip has given us a wider view on the beauty and necessity of creation, decay and improvement.

A summary on cruising practices

Preventer for the main, snubber for the anchor, pole for the genoa, risk based napping on watch, regular checks of the material, anchor round before the drop, reefing for comfort: that’s what we found best practices on board. Of course many more are to be institutionalized or behaviouralized, but the ones mentioned are the ones we did not prioritize that high before. And the risk based napping may be disputable - many cruisers keep ongoing watch, reading and watching movies. We think, that does not make sense. You need to be as fit and ready as possible if the routine breaks, the unexpected happens. Therefore assess the risks depending on speed, traffic, distance to shore and go to sleep. With autopilot, radar, AIS, moving map / chart plotter supporting you, it’s better to focus on your sleep and material than on movies and books - or does somebody really stare into the dark for hours?

With the size of Jade Akka we were able to get anything on board we needed. As the first owner advised, we got food for months (the non perishable items) as well as spares and tools to last for the pacific crossing. Of course for the spares it did only partially work out, as we did not expect that we would loose the anchor roller shaft. However, for regular items like engine oil, fuel, filters, impellers, sail thread and also paint etc we just had all on board to be independent for weeks and months while doing maintenance ourselfes. Thus we spent a few days in La Paz to work on rusty spots. Refueling turned out to be a semi-annually event, e.g. Mexico and Australia in 2018, Seattle and San Diego in 2017.

Broken water makers as we had or other water issues seem to be common. Not knowing what to drink can get super stressful very quickly. Excess emergency water is one of the prudent things to take along aside from the usual equipment. Other redundant safety items we suggest: various chart sources on laptop aside from the chart plotter, but not necessarily paper charts except for one or two big large scale overviews. It’s more important to have a cross check on charts today, including aerial images. Equip your dinghy with a minimum of flares, radio & light. The dinghy ride is probably the biggest vulnerability where nobody maybe around to notice your distress in remote locations - be dinghy-wise!

Fishing is a great way to get food, way better than shopping. Even in the fine restaurant in Port Stephen, where we celebrated Isa's birthday, the yellowfin tuna did not taste as good as freshly caught. Fishing does not need a lot: squid like lure with double hooks, 10m monofilament, swivel, 20m strong thing line and rubber bands / bungees to absorb the biting shock (vital!), ideally a hand wheel to put the line on, a glove to reel in and cheap alcohol to calm the fish before cutting its gills, a good fish kinfe to do so, a board to filet the fish on. That's it!
On passage many lures will be taken by too big fish, swivels or lines break, so have many spares. Put out two lines to increase chances. Follow the birds to make the certain catch. Go to the offshore seamounts and reefs. Add a spear gun for reef fishing - go at night, so the fish does not move - or get a bigger spear gun to hunt in daylight with a lot of practice.
A fishing rod is an expensive but hardly worth additional equipment. Handlines are much, much cheaper and for sailing as effective as the best rod.

A summary on white sand beaches, turquoise waters and coconut trees -
And news from around the globe

Did you admire the wonderful island pictures? Could you imagine some of the inhabitants are sick of eating „rice, coconut and fish only every day of your life“? Fact is, the atolls are harsh places to live. Though the diving is great, above water the variety is not so excessive. The islands with higher mountains are usually a bit of a difference, as they have more rain and thus often an abundance of tropical fruits. However, given the standard of living in industrialized countries the holiday-dream is only possible with big imports. Not expecting the same standard, life can be great out there, too, with a different focus. Looking at the pictures e.g. of the Heiva dance festival, we already miss it.

Are we wasting the oceans and polluting the climate? If nobody cleans the beaches, the plastic abounds. Wherever we were, we found plastic and civilization debris on beaches. We also found less fish the more people were around. Not a surprise I guess, but worth a consideration that out in the ocean the same effect is most likely to apply. I always wondered at the ads in Switzerland regarding minimizing your fish consumption. Well, it was just too far away. But it certainly is worth more than a thought. Do we need to shop for fresh tuna in a landlocked country? Because this fruit of globalization is a very tempting one, it’s one to consume with great deliberation - if at all. As for the climate, we saw cyclone season moving forward and experienced the tail winds of the first tropical storm in Fiji before this was expected. Talks with cruisers hint at less stable conditions in the future. And one acquaintance that travelled both Alaska and the Arctics by plane said the effects of warming are clearly visible in the 20+ years he visited these places. Let's use our time and planet wisely!

Did you ever think of piracy, robbery and crime? We met very friendly people, exclusively. While some areas we visited have a bad reputation, we never had a bad experience there. Locking the dinghy is certainly a must. Keeping decks tidy may also help. But against all news that paint a dark picture we found frienedliness & help prevailing anywhere. The only questionable moments were doing business in La Paz, Baja, Mexico, where prices for boating are crazy high while local work tends to be very cheap - a typical sign of a monopoly or organized oligopoly. We came to the conclusion that there must be an agreement between yards to keep price at a certain level. The expats like Lopez Marine joined in, with 30% markup on already expensive Westmarine prices. Welcome to the swamp. Funny enough: Best and also most cost-efficient boatwork we found in Ensenada, Mexico, just after the US border. The pacific islands are also a good stop (i.e. go to Baja Naval, Raiatea or Vuda).

Are you worried about migration? I am getting sick reading the news about the migrant discussion. Could you imagine all the places we saw without migration? Or, a bit less political, could you imagine it without world trade? I can not. Holiday-dreams would not work without it. Everyday life would not be possible on today’s convenience level. Especially on the outer islands, the outboards made far away have turned into something like the savings account. Outboards are so important (regardless of their ecological impact) to make it to the island back home. And in far away Palmerston, that was founded by one man and three wives and does only allow family members to live there, how would it do without migration? So we heard stories how the families grew, where the members came from and how the names hint at the origin of the persons across Polynesia. Migration is not a new thing, it’s been there once these islands were settled. And as for our countries as well as these remote islands, the people coming in have all brought new flavours, new ideas, and most often new wealth. Homo sapiens has been a migrating species all along, as it seems.

Nevertheless, as people move from place to place on a global level, it seems to get more and more important to foster local specialities, local tradition and culture to keep diversified. There’s nothing more boring than high standard hotel rooms that feel all the same around the globe. Traveling is about experiencing differences. So we hope the variety will be deliberately strengthened while we connect and interact closer and closer. What would Polynesia be without the Heiva? What would it be without guests and expats that dream of white sand beaches, turquoise waters and coconut tree lined shorelines? Taking care of our local culture is the only appropriate, and fruitful, answer to fears of migration. And some migrants turn out to be boosters to local tradition, as our friend Katja who teaches, as a German migrant, the local kids in Switzerland the typical Swiss children’s songs - I have to admit, I do not know a fraction of those songs by heart. She does.

Take away

We all should ensure the sandy-beach-and-coconut-tree-islanders get their fruit of globalization, too, foster our local culture but also enjoy diversity, explore our blue marble and the folks on it while keeping it neat and tidy for the homo sapiens to come.