Sean and Erin started cruising in 1998. They purchased their yacht Whimsey in Florida. Whimsey is a popular Formosa Peterson 46 design. After refitting her they spent a few years in the Caribbean and crossed the Pacific in 2002. We first met this lovely couple during the five years they spent in Auckland New Zealand. We cruised locally with them on occasions before they departed New Zealand in 2008, the same year we left New Zealand on Blue Heron. They sailed up to Fiji and on to New Caledonia then up and down the Australian East Coast before settling in Sydney. Sean and Erin lived onboard full time until 2012, a period of 24 years before moving ashore for work commitments, only returning for short periods to cruise locally. Their story gives an interesting perspective on what worked for them and how you too could do the same.
LINDSAY: Okay today we’re interviewing Sean and Erin. They’ve lived on their yacht “Whimsey” for quite some time and I met Sean and Erin when we were in Bayswater Marina in Auckland, the first time. We’ve had some pretty good experiences out cruising the Hauraki Gulf and Mercury Bay and I just thought it would be a good idea to have a chat with them and hopefully share something useful to our listeners and readers.
Welcome Erin and Sean.
ERIN: Nice to be talking to you.
LINDSAY: Good, now you’re down in Sydney at the moment. Sydney to Hobart yacht race is about to start in an hour’s time so we’d better crack on and not waste too much time in case there’s something interesting happens on the telly.
I’m going to start the way I normally do by asking you to go back when you were young and tell us a bit about the feelings you had about growing up, and when you first started wanting to be on a boat and live on the sea. What was your own first interest in boats?
ERIN: I think one of the things I’d say is that neither Sean nor I come from sailing families. We are the only sailors in our families. For me, I went to school in the north of England and our headmaster was Scottish so at primary school we did a week’s camp up in the Scottish Locks doing a sailing course and it was completely out of the blue. I’d had no experience before. It was freezing cold and soaking wet and I loved it. Absolutely loved it, but do you know I never really thought it was for me.
Then when I think back again my very first Saturday job was cleaning barges that people used on the Grand Union canal in England for holidays. So they’d bring them back and I got them early on a Saturday morning and was part of the cleaning crew preparing the barges in between holidays. And again, I really enjoyed the size of the boats, the way that everything was very neat, but again thought this wasn’t something that was for me. That it’s something that was available to me.
SEAN: I grew up in a farm in Ireland and my father’s farm had some lake shore on it and I used to go out on the boat with one of my neighbours who was a shoemaker, a cobbler, which was a very honourable profession and he used to take me out on the boat fishing with his dog at the weekend and during the summer holidays. That was my first experience on a boat and that was me growing up in Ireland so I never really got into sailing after that because the weather in Ireland is so outrageous that you wouldn’t even think of going sailing in Ireland.
LINDSAY: Not sort of Caribbean weather, is that what you’re saying?
SEAN: No…Then I was down in Greece for holidays in my 20’s and ran into some people there who were planning to sail across the Atlantic and I was planning to have a year out myself and then I started doing some research into how I would do that. This was back in the early 80’s and I then went and signed up to be crew on a boat on the very first arc, which I think was around ’87 or so. The arc was the first race or first cruising race started by Jimmy Cornell and I took part in that and that was my first introduction to sailing really.
LINDSAY: Very interesting. So, that sort of leads into my next question really, and that’s if you could kindly share with us a bit of an overview about yourself and your experience by sharing with us where you’ve sailed and how long you’ve lived aboard your boat – or any boat that you’ve owned. The question is, how long have you lived on boats and the sea?
ERIN: I met Sean in 1989 in Sydney when we were both backpackers. Sean had, following on from that first arc trip had crewed on a number of boats and ended up in Sydney and I had just flown out here. Sean told me then that he wanted to buy a boat and sail around the world, which I didn’t believe for about three years I think, and then started to realise, he’s actually going to want to do this. So, we did some preparation when we were in London, but mainly we were actually looking to earn money to do the trip.
We looked for a boat in the UK for a number of years and ended up going to Florida, which is where we bought Whimsey in ’98. Essentially, from ’98 to 2012 we lived aboard full-time. We started off in Florida – spent a few years in the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific in 2002, spent five years in New Zealand – in Auckland, and then went up to Fiji and New Caledonia, and came down to Australia and spent a few years cruising up and down the coast of Australia. Then came to Sydney. When we moved to Sydney we actually couldn’t live aboard the boat because we were going to be working. For the last four years we’ve kind of been living half on the boat and half off the boat. That’s a bit of an overview of what we’ve done together.
LINDSAY: A question for Sean then, what sort of boat is Whimsey? Can you tell me a bit about the design and some of the things that you’ve got on board?
SEAN: Well Whimsey is a Formosa Petersen 46. She was built in 1978 and she’s a centre cockpit cutter rigged sloop. She’s very seaworthy boat. Very well built. I’d sailed on a number of boats when I was crewing back in the 80’s and talked to a lot of people about the kind of boats they had, and had sailed on Catamarans and mono’s and actually crossed the Atlantic on a twenty-six foot mono boat with four other people, which was nice and cosy.
LINDSAY: Twenty-six isn’t big for the Atlantic.
SEAN: Back in the 80’s it was considered a reasonable size. Boats are getting bigger all the time, but one of my favourite boats was a centre cockpit and hence when we went to look for a boat, we chose a centre cockpit, and we’re very lucky to find Whimsey in the Caribbean. We spent a year in Florida refitting her, re-powering her, re-rigging her. Changed out all the thru hulls before getting ready first to go on our sailing adventure.
So I guess the one thing I would say to anybody who is at the stage at choosing a boat, is that maybe they should go and try and sail on as many boats as possible and talk to as many different boat owners, so that they can get an appreciation of what boat would work for them. Because, it is very easy to end up on the wrong boat and we know people who’ve ended up buying the wrong boat and not being happy with her down the road. It’s always good to plan ahead and make sure you have the right criteria and the right requirements before you invest in a boat.
LINDSAY: Erin mentioned that you started talking about living on a boat in 1989 and it wasn’t until 1998 that you actually bought Whimsey in Florida. What did you do before you actually bought the boat and when you finally decided to live on the boat, what did you have to do to change your situation to begin the life on the sea? How did you initially get the knowledge and everything you needed to make that transition.
ERIN: It was quite interesting because we were living in central London and working quite long hours – both of us working as contractors. Sean had obviously done much more sailing than I had done at that point. One of the things we did was we were able to do navigation classes and other sort of theoretical classes in central London. We did all of the World Yachting Association courses – the theory courses, at night school. We both did that. I also did a diesel engine maintenance course which was a one day course. The one thing I’ll say about that is it was a good thing for me to do, because I knew nothing about anything mechanical like that at that time, but I did it probably three years too early because we didn’t get a boat for another three years after that.
The other thing I did was Sean had a friend who had a boat in Southampton and we went sailing with them a couple of weekends. Either around the south coast or we did one channel crossing with them. Then there was also somebody who organised weekend cruises. He’d put together a crew of people and again you’d pay for the weekend and do some sailing. I did a few of those on my own as well. Just to get familiar again. Honestly, when we started with Whimsey I was still pretty much a novice.
In terms of how we prepared – we made a big lifestyle change. We’d been looking as I say in the UK and hadn’t been able to find a boat in the UK or in Europe, so we actually packed up everything, left the UK to go and find the boat. We’d already made a big change at that point. When we were doing the re-fit in Florida everything was different. It was just Sean and myself, had a boat out on the hard and we’d never had a boat before. It was a very good experience though to do that big re-fit because it really got us familiar with the mechanics and the working of the boat, so that when we actually did start the cruising we were really confident in all of the plumbing, in all of the thru hulls and the engine, and the rigging because we knew we’d been part of that re-fit. That was a good thing to do I think.
LINDSAY: Have you got anything to add to that Sean?
SEAN: Well Erin obviously, as you can see is my communications officer and she’s my plumber. She does all the plumbing on the boat and to any of you skippers out there, I think it’s very important that you involve your partner in the boat and in the decisions that you make about the boat. It’s not just a man-cave, or if it is a man-cave you’ll end up as a single-hander before very long. A little bit of advice from an old sea dog.
LINDSAY: That’s very good advice too. Thank you very much.
We never really stop learning when we’re out on boats. There’s always something new comes along, but when the initial planning and learning phase was done, how hard was it to actually make the transition from shore life to life on the sea? What were you feeling when you made that initial transition?
ERIN: I think because we did it all in one go there’s a lot of things mixed up there. Moving from working full-time to cruising was an interesting piece. From a relationships point of view, and Sean touched upon this, it’s actually one of the things that people don’t always think about – is their relationships and how that will change. When we were working in London, we were both working very long hours and so we didn’t actually get to spend a lot of time together. We went from that, to being twenty-four hours in each other’s company and really relying on each other and working together on everything. We have seen that cause problems in other people’s relationships because they haven’t thought through what that means.
First thing is, you are experiencing…When the first time you’re sailing at night…The first big sail we did just the two of us was across the Gulf stream from Miami to the Bahamas, which is one of the biggest sea waves in the world and there were Navy ships that were not showing their lights. I’d see these shadowy ships in the background and I wasn’t used to the lights and that sort of thing, so a level of fear and anxiety that I haven’t experienced before – you get used to that. The drama, the high drama that you have at some times, and then the complete peace that you get in a beautiful anchorage. It’s so peaceful and so calming. You get a lot of extremes I think.
SEAN: Yeah. I think my impression was that we had given ourselves time and we hadn’t put any time limits on ourselves when we went to look for the boat, and when we eventually found it and started working on her, we were very fortunate in that we were able to say, “Okay, we’re going to go go sailing and we don’t have a time restriction.” That was very comforting. If you have time-boxed yourself into doing it for three years or four years, then you really have to get a move on and have a good plan, and have a good schedule of what you’re going to do with the boat. Unless you’re fortunate enough to buy a new boat, but even buying a new boat people will have to do certain modifications if they’re going to take her cruising.
I guess my only advice would be to read as much as you can, plan as much as you can, talk to as many people as you can, listen to as many podcasts that Lindsay’s made, and try and take it all in. Then apply it to yourself and see what works for you.
LINDSAY: It’d be fair to say that it’s quite an emotional roller-coaster and you have fairly large extremes of happiness and peacefulness, and fear and what-have-you. You’re still here and none of that stuff that you feared really came true, is that correct?
ERIN: You really feel like you’re making the most of your life.
LINDSAY: Living life to the full.
For me one of the greatest things is the amount that you do learn and the amounts that you can do. Things that I can do now that I never believed I would be able to do.
LINDSAY: Yeah, that’s quite a common thing that I hear, so very interesting to hear it again.
This is a bit of a personal subject, but it’s a very important one I feel. It stops a lot of people in their tracks. And that’s the fact that everyone needs some money in this world and how did you feel about the costs of life on the sea in relation to your income, and how did this affect the choices you made once you left your jobs?
SEAN: I guess we were quite fortunate. When I went back to London in the 80’s I bought a house and invested in the house and then when we left to go sailing we were fortunate enough to have made enough money to buy the boat and to rent the house out, so we had a little bit of income coming in above paying the mortgage on it. So, we were able to buy the boat free of any debts and re-fit her within our allocated budget. That worked out quite well for us.
Then, from the point-of-view of cruising and lifestyle, I guess we’ve always found it takes maybe thirty-thousand dollars a year or so to keep you going while you’re out there.
LINDSAY: You’re talking US dollars or Australian dollars, because you’re in Australia at the moment?
SEAN: It costs you twenty in America or thirty in America, and it costs you thirty in New Zealand, so it doesn’t matter where you are, you know.
LINDSAY: Okay, it’s relative to the country you’re in.
SEAN: Will keep you reasonably in good shape, as long as you haven’t got generators or water-makers on board, in which case you can add another ten thousand dollars I think.
Yeah, we’ve been able to adjust and I think for me, our initial plan was to sail around the world but having done a few years, we felt when we got to New Zealand, that we needed a break from it. So we started working again and topping up the kitty again.
ERIN: But a lot of that was more about the lifestyle. At that time we wanted a change in the lifestyle.
SEAN: Yeah. I think you’ve got to be flexible in that way, in that depending on what your plan is. If you’ve got a plan to sail around the world in three years, that’s one thing. We had a plan just to go sailing and our plan was to get to New Zealand but it was a fairly random sort of plan. We were flexible in where we went to and that’s the way I like to live my life anyway. I don’t like to be too regimented. Sort of saying, I have no idea where I’m going to be in three years time. Hopefully not still in Sydney.
ERIN: When we were cruising there were lots of different ways of working. We were probably sitting somewhere in the middle We would live quite frugally. Other people would be going out for dinner every night, they’d go to every single event, so they were spending quite a lot of money on entertainment. They tended to be the people also with the water makers and the generators. Then there were other young people that we would see who were essentially living on beans and rice and sharing very much. So the big thing is to make sure that you’ve got the money for if you’ve got a major boat related expense. But in terms of living expenses, it’s like anything else, you can live at different levels and live within your means.
LINDSAY: Very good answer. Thank you very much for that. That’s going to help a lot of people I’m sure.
What would be your ideal income source and exactly how would that work to support the perfect life at sea? What’s the perfect way of earning money at sea in your mind?
SEAN: At the moment we haven’t really
ERIN: Solved that one yet
SEAN: Solved that one yet
LINDSAY: Oh you haven’t solved it. Still working on it.
SEAN: I think the idea would be, if you’ve got some property somewhere to invest in property and rent it out, and then you’ve got a passive income coming in. That would be one way to do it these days I think.
It’s very difficult to work in third world countries so if you’re travelling, then you can only work in the OECD and earn enough money I believe to keep yourself going. Although, as Erin said we met people who were eating dried fruit that they picked up in the Canary’s and we met them, you know, in the middle of the Pacific, and said he was sharing these dried fruit that he’d picked up five years ago in Greece. He was very, very happy doing his stuff and he didn’t need an income to keep him going.
So we’ve met all kinds of people. I mean, as everyone knows, you’ll spend whatever money you have. If you don’t have it you won’t spend it so the people who have a good time out cruising will have a good time regardless of how much money they have.
LINDSAY: Right, so it’s not all about money.
Tell us your experience with seasickness and how do you deal with it? Do you get seasick?
ERIN: I do get seasick. Sean – less so, but still occasionally. Even after all of our years sailing, if we’re going out into the ocean we will always take seasickness pills the first days.
LINDSAY: Have you got a special label of sea sick pills, a special brand?
ERIN: Dramamine. To tell you the truth, that’s because they come in a little plastic canister so they’re easy to keep dry.
The other thing I do is because I do most of the cooking in preparation for a trip, I will prepare food for the first forty-eight hours before we set off. You know, if we’re going on more than a three or four day out, so I’ll have some pasta made up and I’ll have sandwiches made up, so that I don’t need to go into the galley for the first forty-eight hours. Sean will heat up food.
After forty-eight hours and I’m used to the motion of the boat, I’m fine. There’s a couple of hints I would say if you’ve got visitors coming on the boat. One is not to talk about seasickness. People want to get into that conversation and if you start a conversation about seasickness just before you go out, everybody will be throwing up everywhere. I try and change the conversation, if people start talking about it just before you’re going out with visitors.
The other thing is just to keep something in your stomach. We keep ginger biscuits. Actually, we put on a lot of weight when we first set out because we were – during that – we’d keep eating ginger biscuits and chocolate.
Yeah, for me, a lot of it is stress related. If I’ve got visitors on board and I think they might be seasick, chances are I’m going to be sick. A lot of it is a mental piece I think.
SEAN: Having been out for a few days, like Erin doesn’t feel seasick.
ERIN: No. I’m fine once I’m out for a couple of days.
SEAN: So everybody I think feels a little bit woozy when you first start sailing, and then people recover at different rates from that wooziness. Once you’re out there for a day or two then it tends to be all fine.
LINDSAY: Seasickness doesn’t last forever. It’s always good to have something like Dramamine, because of the little plastic bottles they come in, they don’t get damp. Preparation of food and things for the first forty-eight hours is a good idea. Don’t talk about it too much. That’s all very good and that’s quite a common thread that I’ve heard through talking to other people about it. I did a very good interview recently with a Professor on seasickness and they measured the effects of looking at the horizon, and they said that it had a very positive effect about looking at the horizon and reducing the seasickness thing. But it had to be done before you started feeling seasick. So being up in the cockpit and looking at the horizon is a big help also.
Now, being at sea is pretty adventurous and I was wondering if you could share with us what were some of the worst memories of life at sea that you’ve got.
ERIN: Sean and I had a conversation about this before, and actually our worst memory is we were in the Brisbane river in 2011 when Brisbane was flooded.
LINDSAY: Oh yes!
ERIN: We were in Dockside Marina which is up underneath the Story Bridge in Brisbane – right in the centre of the city, and we were stern to the flood tide on the boat. The prediction was that the river was going to rise above the level of the padding, and so the whole Marina was going to lift and go off down the river. So, we had to try and get Whimsy out of the Marina and it took us two and a half hours to reverse out of the pen, because we had the flood tide on our stern, and we had massive lines over to the dock behind us, and we were full power. There came a point about an hour in where we knew we couldn’t get off. So we were on Whimsy, we had this flood tide we couldn’t get around to the pen, and the marine rescue who were standing by, couldn’t assist us. They were standing by in case anything disastrous happened.
Same time as we were trying to do that, massive pontoons and boilers and things were floating past us on the river. We knew that once we got out into the river, who knew what was going to happen. That was a pretty scary time.
The other thing is that there were probably about five boats in the same situation in the Marina trying to do that. When we spoke afterwards, we said that there’s everything else that we had ever been through – storms at sea – anything else that we had been in, we had read a huge amount about. There was lots of information. But we’d never read anything about what to do in a flood river. We were really having to sort of, feel our way. We didn’t know what steerage we would have once we got out of the pen.
We did get out, we then had the fastest trip down Brisbane river ever. I think we were doing ten knots, and Whimsey generally goes around five. Flying out of there. So we anchored that night off one of the little islands in Moreton Bay. What I would say about that is that all of the Marinas in Moreton Bay opened the gates to all of the people who came out of the river. There were free berths available in some of the Marinas. Others that haven’t got liveaboards – opened up to liveaboards while we all got ourselves settled. There was a lot of support from the boating community in all of the Moreton Bay Marinas. All was well after that, but that was a pretty scary twenty-four hours.
LINDSAY: It was incredibly scary. If you hadn’t have got out then the alternative would be to float down the river with the Marina berths that you were attached to. Is that correct?
ERIN: That’s right. That’s what the threat was.
LINDSAY: So you would have risen off over the top of the poles that they were attached to because the flood waters got so high. Is that what happened?
ERIN: In the end it didn’t quite reach that point. There was a catamaran that they untied from the dock and tied themselves to a tree, and they rose up above the fencing around the Marina. When the water went down they were half on the dock and sort of, tipped over because they had actually gone onto the walkway. In the end, the Marina didn’t go, but a lot of the other Marinas did, and that Marina itself was closed for a short while afterwards.
LINDSAY: Very scary. Was there anything in hindsight that you could have done to make it easier to get out? Being stern on would have been hard with the rudder upwind of the tide.
ERIN: There was a guy in a houseboat opposite us who left the night before, and the prediction wasn’t there for the floods at that point. But he said, “Have you seen what’s been happening? I’m going.” We thought he was being a bit over-cautious. In hindsight we should’ve gone then. So then, we weren’t the only people to think that. It changed very quickly.
LINDSAY: Yeah, floods. Nasty things. Something to be aware of in a river berth.
It’s interesting that there’s nothing out there on that, so thank you very much for sharing that experience, because I’m sure a lot of people will keep that in mind in the future when they’re berthed in a river. Just to be wary of floodwaters. They can happen from inland events too. I think the reason why the Brisbane river flooded so much was they opened the dam up because it was about to overflow, and that caused a lot of extra water to come down than what a lot of people were expecting. Very big inquiry afterwards as well.
Enough of the bad experiences, what were some of the best memories of life on the sea that you’ve had? I can think of one or two when we were cruising together, but I’ll leave that to you.
ERIN: We have had some lovely times. Again, we were talking about this earlier. There are so many lovely memories of being anchored in beautiful places, but one in particular, we’ll touch on this: We were in the Mercury Islands, off the coast of New Zealand and we bumped into Blue Heron – you guys, as we came into the anchorage. First thing in the morning we were up having our coffee and saw dolphins in the bay, so we gave you a hoy and Katie was swimming with the dolphins there.
LINDSAY: That’s right. We threw all our dive gear into the boat, all our snorkel gear into the boat and took off over the other side of the bay where they’d ended up and they were in play mode. It was pretty cold water, but I got in the water and Kate got in after me. She was about six years old then I think, so I tucked her under my arm and these dolphins were coming up to us like we were something – quite a curiosity. After the big alpha male dolphin came up and checked us out, then the mother and the baby and all the rest of them came along and had a look at us. Kate was squealing away with the cold. These sort of little happy squeals. That was one of my fondest memories.
That whole island was great because we spent quite a bit of time together. Can you tell us a bit more about that.
ERIN: Later that day I think you and Sean went and did a dive and bought some scallops up, but there was another person who had a boat in the Marina in Bayswater where we were all living – Ross who was in the Navy. He’d been out teaching diving I think that day. Came past in the inflatable and threw a couple of lobsters on board for us.
LINDSAY: That’s right.
ERIN: So we had freshly picked scallops and lobsters for our tea that evening. I’ve got a beautiful photograph of sitting with Lynley and Kate and Hamish, shucking the scallops and getting everything ready while you and Sean sat in the cockpit with a beer I think.
LINDSAY: Yeah, we’d done our bit. We went and collected them all, so fair’s fair. That was a very, very enjoyable time and there’s plenty of those sort of times out there when you are cruising.
ERIN: There are. I guess that’s one of the things that we’ve often talked about, is the sense of community that there is in the cruising community. It really is. It is a community. It’s a community of people who come in and out, but you really do make some very good friends.
LINDSAY: Sean, can you add anything to that? Have you got any particular experiences that you remember that are right up there on the top of your list?
SEAN: I like the wildlife I see out at sea a lot of the time. When I traveled across the Pacific in ’88 I think it was, or ’87, I do remember seeing a whole train of dolphins doing their jumping thing. There was at least, I’m not exaggerating, a hundred dolphins in a pod and I have some pictures which was taken on a standard camera, pre-digital, so I only have one or two photographs, if anyone knows what photographs are. That was one of my amazing memories of early sailing in the Pacific.
Then in New Zealand, on that same time when we met up in the Mercuries, I remember there was a whole pod of whales. I’ve never seen as many whales together like that. They were on a procession and I’m sure there was a kilometre of whales, almost in a line. They were just going one after the other, being followed by dolphins and birds. That was an amazing sight I’ve seen.
LINDSAY: Yeah, I remember that too. The day before as we were making our way down there, we were all standing there on the bow spotting these whales as we were cruising along the gentle ten knot breeze. It was just beautiful. Fantastic time. Very nice place around the Mercury Bay area.
SEAN: It is. It’s beginning to sound like an advertisement for New Zealand.
LINDSAY: It is isn’t it. Well, we miss that area. It’s beautiful cruising around.
Okay, so we’ll move on and I don’t want you to hold back at all now. I’m going to ask you, what’s it really like living on the sea for extended periods? I want you to tell me all the good, bad and ugly, so that people can get a good feel of what it’s like. Is it easy? Is it hard?
ERIN: There’s two sides to it. One is when you’re sailing for an extended period, but you actually don’t do as much as people imagine I think. You spend a lot of time at anchor when you’re living on a boat. We do like ocean sailing, and we have often chosen to do a five day sail where you could actually do day-hops, because we quite enjoy doing that piece. But that’s really a very small percentage of what you do overall when you’re out, living on a boat and cruising. In terms of that, people do think, do you not get sick of each other’s company, but when you’re doing the sailing you don’t see each other, because one person’s on watch at the other person’s off watch. You don’t spend a lot of time in each other’s company.
When you’re in an anchorage it can get lonely. I think one of the things that I’ve heard other women say is that they want female company, and certainly there’s been a number of times where there’s been a point where people have all come together and the women do come together, because they want to have time together – talking and just being in each other’s company. It can be a bit lonely and I know some women, again have…because as I said it’s a community where people come in and out, you build a friendship and then the people that you’ve made friends with have gone off in a different direction to you. So you don’t see them again. You’ve just made a really good friend and then they’ve gone. That can be quite difficult.
It’s not like when you’re living in one place on land, where your friends are all around you, your family is all around you. You become very much more reliant on your partner I think. Having said that, if you’re aware of that, then you’ll do things to make sure that you do get the female company or you do get the male company. That’s the other thing – the blokes need to have their time as well.
What I really like about it is, I said, you develop a lot of skills, but at the same time that does mean that you are spending your time doing boat work in beautiful places. Doing the plumbing, or doing the varnishing, or doing the fiberglassing in beautiful places. There’s a Canadian cruiser who has written a number of songs and one of them is “What do you do all day”, and it is about, you know, you do a lot of boat maintenance so you’re in these gorgeous places, but you’re doing boat maintenance.You know, you’re not sitting, drinking margaritas as she says. That’s one of the things I like about the life.
SEAN: Yeah. I agree with all of that. I guess one of the things about sailing is that when I owned a car in London I would never do any of the maintenance on it. I would just bring it down the garage because I’d be working on other stuff. Whereas now I don’t enjoy doing maintenance but I am capable of doing all those things. I’ve acquired all those things, and that’s quite rewarding. To know that you can be self sufficient in the world and we got a great deal of advice and knowledge from reading up Nigel Calder and all his books in the old days. Now it’s all on YouTube.
We started cruising before anyone heard of Google or YouTube or the internet. I had an email account when we left in ’98 and that was about it. Then now, all that information is available online so that if you need to know something, how to do something, you just go to YouTube and it’s there. It’s an amazing resource out there, of knowledge that will help everybody in the future who goes cruising.
LINDSAY: My next question is a little bit harder. It’s a question more about trying to help people who are just starting out now and drawing of your experience – years of experience. The question is, if you had a magic wand and you had the chance to start your life on the sea all over again in today’s environment, what would you do to maximise your enjoyment of life on the sea.
SEAN: I think for me I would say, anyone who’s starting out and thinks “Oh I’d love to go and buy a boat and go cruising” is, as I said before, maybe try and go and try boats with different people. Get a bit of experience. It’s very hard to get experience in life, before you commit to doing it full-time.
ERIN: People are very willing to share their experience. People are very happy to show you around the boats and say what works for them and what doesn’t.
SEAN: The one thing to remember, which I think we were very fortunate with our boat is that you do spend ninety-five percent of your time at anchor, if not ninety-eight percent of your time at anchor after a number of years. It’s really important that it’s a comfortable boat to be in when you’re anchored. That it’s not about the speed. It’s not about the looks of it from the outside. It’s about that you can sit down in that boat and feel comfortable and safe in the cockpit or in the boat, without thinking about how fast she’s going to go.
ERIN: Somebody said to us, when we started out, and I think it was really good advice, you must love the boat because you’re going to spend a lot of time maintaining it. That’s very true. We do love Whimsey and there’s lots of things about her that we love. She’s right for us. We’ve got a lot of wood. A lot of other people prefer to not to have all of that, but if you settle for something because you think it’s good enough, you might find that that’s not going to work for you in the long run, because when you are doing a lot of work on it, it can become a burden.
LINDSAY: The choice of boat is so important. It’s got to be something that feels right for you.
ERIN: The reason there is so many different types of boats is because people do have different lifestyles, do have different requirements. The best thing I think is that as Sean said, it is important that if there’s more than one of you on the boat, that everybody has things that are their responsibility and things that they have control over. I’ve seen couples where it was basically the guy’s boat and then they’ve decided to go and the guy has not allowed the woman to become involved. But also, not allowed any space for her to have activities and things for her to do, and you do spend a lot of time in anchorages. I certainly took up hobbies when we first started. You know, if somebody starts to feel like they are a passenger on a single-handers boat rather than a partner in the event, then that’s not going to last for long. That’s not going to pan out.
LINDSAY: We’ve pretty much reached the end of the interview and I’d like to thank you very much for giving us your time. Sydney to Hobart has just started, but that’s okay, I’m enjoying this chat. Is there anything that you’d like to share with us where people can go. Have you got a website, or anything online that people can go and have a look at that they can follow up more on?
ERIN: We do have a blog about our travels which is called whereiswhimsey.blogspot.com but I also have a website called Tin Can Galley, which is where I’m sharing very simple recipes where you are miles from the grocer. How to make something interesting out of tins. You’re in anchorage and that’s all you’ve got left.
LINDSAY: That would be very valuable for a lot of people I’m sure. I’ll make sure that I get those links if you didn’t catch them and I’ll put them on my website so everybody can have a look and see what you’ve got up there. Fantastic chatting with you again and who knows where your adventures are going to lead.
ERIN: Who indeed.
LINDSAY: Good to have the chat with you again and we’ll end the interview here and thank you very much once again.
ERIN: Thanks Lindsay
SEAN: Thank you Lindsay.
LINDSAY: Alright, bye.
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