Sailing Circumnavigation Q&A
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Last Updated on May 14, 2021 by Amy
We finished our world sailing circumnavigation on March 26th, 2020. We were supposed to have a party in St Lucia; instead, we had to deal with the COVID pandemic, which we rode out very nicely in Antigua.
Since we didn’t get to have our party, we had a digital one instead! Over two hundred people tuned in to our livestream on YouTube to celebrate with us. We loved getting to connect and say hello to people all other the world who’ve been supportive of our adventure.
You can watch the recording of the livestream on YouTube:
We took some time to answer questions, and we didn’t get to all the questions that were asked. Here are all the questions and our answers.
Our plan is to leave Antigua to sail north as soon as possible. We are planning to keep Starry Horizons at Cape Charles Yacht Center in the Chesapeake Bay area. While Starry Horizons is on the hard, ee will go home to Texas for the summer and hopefully launch again in October or November. We hope to head south and cruise the Bahamas for an entire season. It’ll be a good opportunity for us to explore cruising at a much easier pace without some of the pressures we’ve been having. It’s a lot of “hope” right now.
Do you have long term plan to stay as live aboards or do you see a time you move back to land life?
After our season in the Bahamas, we will evaluate what we want to do. We worry that if we sell Starry Horizons, we might regret it quickly. We are pretty young, so we won’t be cruising indefinitely, and even if we sell Starry Horizons, we have (hopefully) plenty of years left to go out sailing again.
Any plans to do a season in the Mediterranean?
It is one of the options we are considering for after the Bahamas. We haven’t been sailing in the Med, and a lot of people rave about certain places.
Are you thinking about starting a family? If you have kids would you still cruise?
No plans to have kids!
Will you back back down under again with SH do you think?
Since we spent seven months sailing in Australia in 2018, it’s likely we would skip Australia entirely or minimize our time there if we were in that part of the world.
Would you ever consider cruising higher latitudes or are you warm weather only sailors?
Definitely not. Sailing to the higher latitudes would mean some major changes to our boat. High latitude boats often have reinforced bows and insulation to deal with temperature and humidity. I highly recommend checking out S/V Libellule, a Fountaine Pajot that has done both the Northwest Passage and Antarctica.
What is your ratio of hooking something with the lines to actually hauling in a fish?
Very low. *laughs and cries*
What’s the biggest and best fish you caught on your circumnavigation?
Twice we caught two bigeye tuna at once (pictured above). One time was in Fiji and once was in New Caledonia. That’s a total of four tunas! It’s great to catch so much fish at once, we were able to share with fellow cruisers and the local villagers.
Which fish tastes the nicest ?
Of all the fish we’ve caught, the big eyes have been our favorite. Supposedly they are just as good as yellowtail. I love to eat it raw as tartare, poke, or sushi.
Danger at Sea
Was Starry Horizons ever struck by lightening and if no, were you ever close?
We haven’t been struck by lightning, thank goodness. We have been in several lightning storms. The big ones that come to mind are in Sri Lanka and motoring up the Malacca Strait.
Have you encountered any pirates? How have you prepared for the possibility?
We have not. There have been a few situations where we were concerned, usually because a fishing boat was approaching us too close. The most important thing is avoidance. We avoid areas with high piracy activity.
Was there ever a time where you were really worried about your safety while sailing? Maybe pirates, running out of fuel, bad weather, scurvy, etc.
Scariest moments at sea? On land?
What is the most dangerous thing that you have experienced out in the ocean?
While running out of fuel in the Indian Ocean was very stressful, I don’t think we were concerned about our safety too much.
There have been a few moments where conditions deteriorated quickly but only for a short period of time. There are a few moments I remember being truly scared: our first night out in the Bay of Biscay, coming into Bermuda in a storm and our screecher starting to unfurl, and nearly losing our spinnaker in the South Atlantic.
David LOVES to tell the story of our first night out in the Bay of Biscay. I was very nervous, so he kept me company for a little while at the helm. Not long after he got in bed, I banged on the hull to wake him up. In his groggy panic, he bounced around the cabin, struggled with the door, and came up top. When he arrived, I pointed out the glowing dolphins playing alongside Starry Horizons. David was not impressed.
In my defense, even though we have seen dolphins in bioluminescence before, we never saw them glow quite like that again.
Do you have an anchor dragging story?
We have only dragged anchor once on Starry Horizons. In Pittwater, Australia, we were anchored in seagrass and a massive storm rolled in and Starry Horizons got blown 90 degrees very sharply. Thankfully we were onboard and it was easy peasy to reset.
We have saved a few boats. Unfortunately, there are always people who either do not know how to anchor or don’t have a good set up.
Once, before we bought Starry Horizons, we were chartering in the BVIs on a Leopard 38. It was just the two of us. We were having a lovely night stargazing on the trampoline and then when we looked up we realized we were dragging. We scurried to get the anchor up and reset it, but our anchor had dragged over our neighbor’s chain, and the two anchors ended up tangled up together. Our boats bumped against each other and the captain of the other boat and David were both in the dinghy trying to get the anchors unstuck. I was at the helm, and the other crew members of the other boat were fending us off. Unfortunately, charter boats don’t often have good setups, and the captains (like us at the time) aren’t very experienced with anchoring.
Read about our anchor system.
Cruising Catamarans for Circumnavigations
Whats your boat footage? How many berths and baths?
Starry Horizons is 44′ long and 24′ wide. We have the three-cabin owner’s version, and each cabin has its own head. You can view our fancy pictures of Starry Horizons here.
Have you been on a FP 45 and if so how does it compare to SH?
We have not been on the Elba. We hope to see one at the 2020 Annapolis Sailboat Show.
From all that cats out there; what made you guys chose an FP?
We have written a thorough blog post on the topic of shopping for a boat. After doing a lot of reading online, we had a shortlist of boats we wanted to consider and went to the Annapolis Boat Show. We were really able to get a “feel” for each model, and the Helia ticked all our boxes.
If you were to start over, would you buy a Helia 44?
When we boat shopped, I was concerned about the size of our boat. I didn’t want to go too big, so we were looking in the 42-47′ range. If we were back at the beginning as inexperienced cruisers, I do think the Helia is an excellent boat. She’s a great size and well-designed.
If you could go bigger what size?
A slightly bigger boat would be nice, perhaps in the 47-50′ range. We would love to have a little bit more room for toys like a dive compressor. With additional waterline comes better carrying capacity, so a 47-50′ boat outfitted exactly like Starry Horizons would be faster. That would make David happy!
If you were starting your circumnavigation TODAY and you could choose ANY BOAT you want, what would it be?
If money were no object, there are some boutique yards building really interesting boats. South Africa has some interesting catamarans (David is a big fan of the Balance cats). The factory that builds HHs is in China (our friends Frank and Mary Grace went from a Helia to a HH55, named Ticket to Ride).
Balance has a 482 or 526, and HH just introduced the HH50.
Would you buy a new vs used boat next time?
While we do really enjoy playing the what-if game with the new models coming out, we also talk about the possibilities of buying a used boat and using our experiences that we’ve gained to refurbish or outfit an older cat.
Certainly, new cats are far from trouble-free, but Starry Horizons came out of the factory pretty well. As with most new cats, there are almost always issues, usually on third party items (like the Goiot escape hatches).
Used cats have financial benefits (we will surely take a large hit from depreciation) but you have to deal with issues from previous owners.
How did your FP hold up during the circumnavigation?
Starry Horizons looks great! People still compliment her, and it’s surprising to look around and think that she’s nearly six years old!
Read 11 Things We Learned Buying a New Boat.
What do you use for your video editing?
We originally used Sony Vegas, but now we use Adobe Premier. We have a variety of photo and video gear recommendations.
Are you going to continue producing videos next season even though you’re “taking a break” in the Bahamas?
We have no plans to produce any episodes in the future.
Do you guys subscribe to any other sailing vloggers on Youtube? If so who?
We don’t get to watch many sailing videos while we are out crusing. Our internet, espeically in the last few years, has been expensive and limited.
I do think the quality of Delos is great. Linda from 22 South is a professional videographer and director, and their videos have a really great artistic quality. It’s also nice to get perspectives from non-native-English-speakers (sailing is not very diverse). One of the very first sailing channels, The Sailing Family (originally S/V Honeymoon), is a great watch. They are now a beautiful Outremer catamaran. We spent some time with Riley and Elayna from Sailing La Vagabonde in the South Pacific and they were a lot of fun. Friends of ours have recently started to put more time into their channel called s/v Field Trip. A great family, and the first real cruisers we met back in 2013.
How far behind are your videos?
We finished our circumnavigation March 26th, 2020. We are expecting to finish our videos in late September, so that’s six months behind.
Did you ever almost lose the drone?
Yes! One of our very first flights in St Lucia David nearly lost it. He didn’t account for head winds in the battery life getting the drone (Pheonix I) back to the boat. Once in Tonga, we were droning humpback whales breaching and when David turned to fly the drone back to our boat, he mistakenly headed for our friends’ catamaran. We nearly didn’t have enough battery to change course. And the last one that comes to mind is in Madagascar. Linda (from 22 South) and I had hiked to the top of an island. David flew the drone to get some footage at the top but his screen went blank. We communicated using a VHF and he was asking me which way he was going. Of course, Phoenix II was just a tiny dot, I couldn’t tell which direction! Eventually he spotted her and got her down safely.
What’s your favourite vlog you have ever made?
Probably the baby humpback whale in Tonga.
What percentage of your income comes from your YouTube videos?
Zero. We make no money off of our YouTube videos.
Was there ever a time you considered throwing David overboard?
No! Thankfully David and I get along incredibly well and when one of us stressed, the other can balance us out and diffuse the situation. We work very hard on our relationship and know many people who just couldn’t handle it together.
What are your favorite and most hated features/component/system on the boat (what would you change)?
David LOVES the oil change pumps we added for both engines and the generator. Our custom helm top and enclosure still get raved about all the time.
We would not do the shore power converter again, nor would we do the windshield again. We are seriously intrigued by boats going without generators nowadays. For sure, we would like to have a smaller generator.
110Volt or 220 on a boat for circumnavigation?
That depends on your nationality and where you plan to sell the boat. Since we are Americans and probably will sell the boat in this hemisphere someday, our answer was obvious for 110.
We discuss electrical boat systems here.
Is there any part of the boat in dire need of replacement: sails, dinghy, etc.?
Not really. Our work list for the summer is pretty small; repairing some canvas, regular maintenance, another bottom job. If we keep Starry Horizons past 2021, we will probably need new sails, new outdoor and indoor cushions, perhaps we would do copper coat and a solar arch….etc.
How have the sunshades for the salon held up? Would you go another route next time?
They are awesome! Jan did such a great job on them and I love how well they work.
Read more about how we control the temperature inside our cruising boat.
Are going to invest in a night vision camera system for night crossings?
No, we’ve made it this far without one.
Do you still have your original AGM batteries?
Nope! We installed Lithium Ion batteries on our boat while we were in Australia.
Do you still have the extra fuel bladder, and will you use it next time you cross an ocean?
Yes, we still have our 50-gallon fuel bladder. We did fill it up before the infamous Indian Ocean crossing and still ran out of fuel! It’s always better to have something like that just in case. When it’s empty, we store it in the engine locker and it hardly takes up any room.
Sun, Heat and Humitidy
Do you have issues with your light skin tone and red hair in the amount of sun you are subjected too? What sunscreen do you use?
I avoid the sun as much as possible. It is best if I sit inside or in the shade and I wear long-sleeve shirts and rash guards. I put sunscreen on my face every morning and again when I leave the boat.
It’s hard to find the same sunscreen all over the world so I use what is available most of the time. I love this Tizo tinted mineral sunscreen for my face and Nivea 50+ SPF when we can get it.
How important – or not important – is air conditioning on a circumnavigation?
It depends on where you go. While sailing the Maldives, it was incredibly hot and still. For the first (and only) time, David had trouble sleeping at night, even with two fans on us in bed.
Most of the time, though, sailors are in the tradewinds where consistent breeze brings cooler temperatures.
Our air conditioners are a nice treat, and we run them when we have a generator day, but they aren’t critical. David likes the idea of a future boat having two or three small 12V air con units.
If you don’t run your air conditioning how do you deal with 100% humidity and mildew that is so prevalent along the equatorial countries?
We don’t have much of a humitidy or mold problem. Sure, there were a lot of items we brought on board and never used and those do get moldy (purses, shoes, etc). With regular use and cleaning, our stuff has stayed in good condition.
Learning to Cruise
What have you learned, that you wish you knew before you started?
Photography! I wish I’d picked up a proper camera sooner. We have visited so many amazing places and my photos from an old iPhone are all crap.
Are you both entirely self taught? How much sailing experience did you guys have prior to buying a boat?
While I have been around boats my whole life, David was introduced to sailing by my dad. Once he got into it and we seriously talked about cruising, we worked hard to gain experience; we did charters and both got our USCG licenses. Read more about our sailing history and how you can learn to sail here.
Navigating and Passages
Does the constant need to be on watch make you kinda feel, “jet lagged”?
Yes, the first few days, especially the second night, are the worst. The first night you aren’t tired enough to fall asleep early (in David’s case) or sleep in (my case). You get a short amount of sleep, and napping the first full day out doesn’t catch you up. Staying up until two am that second night is the hardest part.
How often did you actually watch-keep from your saloon nav station?
David does it a lot. I prefer to sit at the helm unless it gets too hot.
Do you always get sea sickness?
Not always. The strength of the seasickness varies according to how the conditions are. I didn’t have more than a hint of sluggishness on our calm passage from Saint Helena to Recife. Sometimes it gets really rough, and I might try to nap in the main salon or cockpit.
Sitting at the helm always helps, I get a good view and fresh air.
Was the extra money for the Indonesia rally worth it??
It was very helpful for the formalities portion. The rally organizes your original paperwork, which you submit to the consulate in Australia to get a special 60-day, renewable visa. Then, at the necessary rally stops, they’ve already organized the people to extend the visas.
Read about the Wonderful Sail 2 Indonesia Rally.
Have you tried any celestial navigation yet? Do you plan to?
No, we haven’t, and we don’t have any plans to. We keep tons of backup navigational systems onboard the boat.
Did you guys consider doing the ARC world rally when planning your circumnavigation? Would you recommend it to someone planning a circumnavigation?
We did not consider it, primarily because it is expensive and they move very fast. I think it’s great for socializing because you stay with a constant group of boats, but they just move too fast for us. For cruisers that want additional assistance and support, it’s certainly beneficial.
What are some of the weirdest things you have seen while at sea?
It is amazing to think that we ever spot other ships sometimes. The ocean is so big! We did, in our first Atlantic crossing, spot a large weather buoy just floating out in the middle of nowhere.
Now that the circumnavigation is over, how did it compare to your expectations?
Traveling via boat is more restrictive than we thought. We constantlly have to worry about where we go for the next storm season. And there are certainly the most common routes that sailors use, and deviating from them is hard – there are some very remote parts of the world.
We loved getting see so much of the world, and especially being in a country for a longer time then most tourists get to experience. And the remotness of some places that we visited was amazing.
Read more about the best and worst parts of sailing around the world in our world circumnavigation summary.
Was there ever a time you guys were worried you were not going to be able to make it the full trip around?
From day one, we felt that if we didn’t keep moving and give ourselves a deadline, it would be likely that we wouldn’t finish a circumnavigation. It would be all too easy to linger in some of our favorite sailing destinations and never complete the loop.
We really struggled in Thailand. With getting stuck in the mud, a bad haul out, hitting a reef, and hauling out again, plus a death in the family, we were really struggling. Instead of quitting, we took a quick trip home, and that made a huge difference.
Do you have a favorite boat related movie?
Moana! We haven’t watched many boat-related movies, though there certainly are some great sailing movies out there. Perhaps because I loved sailing the South Pacific so much, Moana makes me tear up. I love that I have personally learned so much about the tapa cloth, the druas, and the hakas.
Also, Captain Ron. I said GUErrillas, not GOrillas.
After all your travels, what have you learned? Have you found meaning from all your travels?
We are so extremely privileged. As white, native-English speaking Americans from affluent families with good educations, it was eye-opening to visit some incredibly poor places along the way.
In general, everyone is so friendly and welcoming. We’ve had no theft or negative feelings from the local communities.
We’ve had our minds (and stomachs!) opened to more food experiences. People eat healthy everywhere, and even the most basic communities usually have a wealth of fish and fresh produce.
Cruising is, unfortunately, it’s own kind of bubble. While we encounter extreme diversity in our travels, the cruisers around us are not diverse. They are white, straight, and older, mostly couples, sometimes solo men, rarely solo women. English-speaking and European nationalities are the status quo.
How do we change that?
Read some thoughts about diversity in sailing.
What was your worst food/alcohol craving travelling to exotic places?
We always miss Tex-Mex. It’s not the same anywhere else in the world, and it’s the first thing we want to eat when we go home.
How bad is the port access with COVID-19?
I’ve got a post coming up in the next week or so about our experience with the pandemic and isolation!
What are David’s new hobbies going to be? Amy, are you working on a book? Are any articles or books forthcoming?
David wants to spend more time investing, reading, and writing. He’d like to dust off his Spanish too.
I am working on a book! I will be sharing details later this year. Now that I have more free time, I am also pitching more stories to Cruising World and I hope to be published again in 2021.
Read my published pieces in Cruising World Magazine.