| 1:00 AM local time, Saturday, June 21 (1800 June 21 UTC). 37 58 N 122 31 W.
Temp. 64, Humidity 58%, Cloud Cover 100%. At home in San Rafael.
Greetings from the crew of Maverick.
OK, swabs, coffee break's over, all hands on deck. We have a few more things to say of a summary nature in the next dispatches wherein we will make a feeble attempt to put everything in perspective, or at least a few things or maybe just one or whatever. We want to thank everyone that showed up both at the Marin Headlands and at the dock in Richmond, especially those of you who sailed out to meet us at the Bridge, whether you made contact or not. We were very happy to meet some of you who were previously strangers and to see all the familiar faces as well. And what did I say? Since we've returned has the stock market not gone up? Has there not been an absence of any new wars in the last ten days? Aren't you glad we're back?
The first thing I personally did when I got home was to get sick. I hadn't had any but the most minor of health problems in places like Tonga, and Eritrea, and Morocco, but when I hit the home waters I got a vicious and lingering cold. Could it have been that unconsciously, I was resisting returning to normal life? I don't think so. I seem to be bathed in luxury in my old house, which Theresa had stocked with all my favorite stuff. To have a refrigerator, hot and cold running water, a TV, and all my records and books close at hand seemed like heaven, even if my leg still involuntarily gets ready to work the foot pump every time I go to the sink. Old friends have stopped by and taken me out to lunch, sometimes generously promising, as Bob Spinner did, that they will be happy to pick up the tab "every time you finish a circumnavigation." The cat, "Alibi" (as in "Gee, I wish I could stay to see the rest of your stamp collection, but I've got to get home and feed the cat") seemed to recognize me although with cats it's hard to tell. The best thing of all, not counting Theresa, is that I've got the ability to just pick up the phone and instantly annoy and berate any number of friends and relatives. I've really missed that.
There is a bit of the Rip Van Captain going on, because in the US things don't stay the same for long. More than one correspondent has written to say that we'll be returning to a harsher America than the one we left. As I responded to Michael White, my feeling is that as long as we ourselves don't become harsher, I can deal with it. But I've already been to a couple of A's games and started to get familiar with the new guys, and there's nothing that serves to reassure a lost soul that things haven't changed that much and all is right with the world, as a baseball game on a sunny afternoon.
So far, the weirdest thing about being back is that home seems so familiar that it is really very hard to believe that I've been where I've been the last two years. Was I really in Savusavu, and Kumai, and Salalah? That's odd. Maybe it was someone else. Before we left, there were those that said I'd come back a changed person, but are they ever in for a disappointment. I can't remember a thing and I'm pretty sure I'm the same old bother I always was.
Anyway, for this edition I'm going to list a bunch of stats for those among us who like such things, so here we go:
As far as we know, we broke no records.
Total time of the voyage: 812 days.
Days underway: 252 (days being 24 hours total, not an afternoon sail), which is about 31% of the time we were gone.
Days spent in harbors (or out of the water): 560
Number of miles 29,993. To give you an idea of how much sailing this is, the average boat is sailed about 12 times a year, which works out to twice a month during the summer sailing season. If each sail is a pretty good daysail around San Francisco Bay amounting to, say, twenty miles, the boat is sailed 240 miles a year. At that rate, it would take about 125 years to do the same amount of sailing Maverick did in the last 28 months. On the other hand, after over two years of very expensive and relatively grueling travel, we're actually right back where we started, so what's the point?
Number of miles sailed to weather (i.e., we had wind but we were not able to fetch our destination-we're not using the Dashew definition of "to weather" as "wind forward of the beam"): About one tenth of the total, or about 3,000 miles. Of this, about 500 miles was motorsailed.
Number of total miles under power: A little less than 1/6 of the total distance, around 4500 miles (counting the above 500 miles). Almost all of this was either in the Med or from Panama to California, the majority because of lack of wind.
Countries visited: 26 not counting US.
Average speed while underway: just over 5 knots.
Number of harbors visited: 124 harbors and anchorages. Of these, 16 were slips, 14 were med-ties, leaving 94 anchorages where we were on the hook or on a mooring.
Top speed on GPS: 17.7 knots. This is pretty danged fast for a boat that is not known for surfing.
Highest 24-hour run: 204 miles, an average of 8.5 knots.
Longest passage 26 days, 23 hours, and 35 minutes. (3512 miles, SF to Hiva Oa, average of 5.4 knots).
Highest sustained (twelve or more hours) winds observed underway: 40 knots (full or fresh gale) with higher gusts. Once from behind near Bora Bora, where we went fast, and once on the nose in the Red Sea, where we bore off and reduced sail. Days in the low 30's (near gale) were considerably less rare, however. We probably saw at least twenty such days.
Highest sustained winds at anchor: 35 knots with gusts to 45 and above in Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, Marsa Thelemet in the Gulf of Suez, Mykonos (Greece). We didn't drag any of these times but the wind backed 180 degrees in Tahiti during a gale and we swung onto the reef.
Highest winds observed underway: 50 knots with gusts to 60 knots for about a dozen squalls lasting 20-40 minutes near Borneo.
Highest waves observed underway: Occasional 20-ft. seas during a gale near Bora Bora; again in a gale in the Red Sea; again in near-gale conditions after departing the Canaries. Although not pleasant, none of these were among the roughest seas we experienced, which were in the eight to twelve foot range and were found in every ocean but mostly in the Pacific Ocean and Western Carribean Sea. We did not experience particularly rough seas in the Red Sea or the Med.
Weather rarities: Sandstorm when underway in the Red Sea; three lightning strikes: two with very minor damage in Malaysia, one with significant damage in Greece.
Other rarities: The sea turned white from horizon to horizon in the middle of the night from an algal bloom near Oman.
Groundings: Once on a Coral Reef in Tahiti, once in mud of off Borneo. We were able to kedge off without assistance both times, but it wasn't pretty.
Near-collisions with shipping, acts of terrorism or piracy, collisions with whales, or knock-downs: Zero.
Counting the original purchase price, about $115,000 was invested in Maverick. I kept decent records, so this is pretty close, but it doesn't count every stainless steel fastener I ran down to Whale Point Marine to buy and there were a lot of those. This is somewhat below average for world cruisers but the million-dollar yachts are rarities for this kind of thing, as are the guys going around in 30 footers. The highest-ticket items in upgrading the boat before we left were new spars and rig from Ballenger and an engine and transmission rebuild, but the rest of the modifications, sails, emergency gear, spares, and electronics add up. Repairs underway were on the high side but not unheard of, if you keep in mind that the distance we traveled is not too much shorter than the distance put in on most five-year circumnavigations, and that we had a couple of fairly unusual problems, including the hull issue. Engine rebuilds or replacements are not what I'd call rare for world cruisers. The total in repairs was in the neighborhood of $25,000 over the 28-month period, about 83 cents per mile, the biggest things being major engine work in Egypt and the hull damage repair in Carriacou. I know some people make it around on a modest budget and have few problems, but my guess is that they are in the minority on both counts. Which is not to say you can't do it, of course. Certain things, like the level of gear you equip the boat with, are under your control. Other things are not. Something that added to our expense was the fact that since we were on a two-year schedule, we could not always afford the time to shop around for bargains and cheaper ways to do things, but on the other hand this was balanced by the fact that we interrupted our gainful pursuits back home for a shorter time.
In addition to the above, our shared monthly expenses for food and fuel, berthing, canal fees, customs and immigration, meals out, and excursions averaged about $1000 each, or, to do the math for you, $2000 a month. (This doesn't count the expenses incurred when the girls showed up and the budget went out the window, but on the other hand they generally kicked in all or some of the money for these trips.) We could have done it on less had either one of us enjoyed cooking, but we found that after making landfall we ate out more often than not. I would guess that this level of expenditure is about average, but there are high-rollers that hit the hot clubs, play golf everyday, and hire out all the boat work, and others who rarely eat out, stay in backpacker hotels when inland, shop very carefully for every $5 purchase, and pick up jobs on other boats when they can. It's probably a bell curve, but cruisers are as a rule pretty frugal, since, unlike people on short vacations, they are in for the long haul.
To sum up, the trip cost the Captain about $167,000 (not deducting the resale value of the boat which of course is significantly less than the original investment) and Mr. Shrode about $27,000. Folks who are thinking about doing something along these lines usually like to know this sort of thing.
I will preface this by saying that I could make a list of at least half a dozen regions of the United States that equal or exceed in beauty anything we saw out there. If you haven't seen the US, it would make sense to go where they accept dollars and speak your language before embarking on an expensive trip to the South Pacific. The fact is that unless you make a special effort to get away from the normal tourist packages when you visit the tropics, your experience will be a typical expensive resort not appreciably more exotic than Hawaii or the Bahamas.
Top travel recommendation: Bali. Beautiful and weird in an interesting and charming way.
Least favorite stop: Egypt; there were no other contenders. The spectacular constructions of the ancients are a striking contrast to the shoddy workmanship and sleazy hustle of their modern heirs.
Best sailing venue: Fiji. Challenging, beautiful, friendly culture, countless great island anchorages. There was at the time of our visit no large charter operation there, although there are quite a few independent operations. Francis, who is an ex-Moorings skipper for their now closed Fiji operation, is planning to put Okiva (An Islander Freeport 41) in charter service in a year or so. Not only is he a real nice guy, he's a great singer, a great cook, and he's a native Fijian who understands the local culture and is also familiar with yours. Whether you want to get into trouble or stay out of it, he's your man. I'll try to keep up on where to contact him.
Most disappointing sailing venue: the Med. You can't do anything to fight windless days except start the engine. Besides that, Europe seemed pretty white-bread compared to where we'd been, and if you're not careful you can find yourself in some very expensive marinas. If you want to sail the Med my advice, based on very limited experience of course, would be to do Turkey or the Balearics. Otherwise, charter a motorboat. We also heard good things about the Adriatic but we didn't have time to go there.
Most challenging leg: The Java and South China Seas. We played the weather according to the books but the window slammed shut six weeks early and we sailed 1000 miles to weather in strong winds. The Red Sea was tough in spots but you could work around most of them and it's an interesting place with great diving and exotic anchorages. The secret to making it up safely is relying on visual cues to navigation and being skeptical of charts and published waypoints. Most people came to grief not out in the heavy weather, but in making risky calls when trying to escape it by getting through a pass into a reef with inadequate charts and/or visibility. And it's also best to miss the pirates.
Easiest charter suggestion: the Moorings in Raiatea, French Polynesia. Negligibly more challenging than the Adventureland Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. They've got you covered.
Most widely visible US products: Coke and Sprite, Windows 98, and McDonald's, with Coke and Sprite being by far the most ubiquitous commodities from any country. Britney is not even close, and Detroit cars are rarely seen.
Most unexpected general observations:
Number one: Even though every corner of the world is more raggedy and inefficient than what we're used to in the US, some of it considerably so, most of what we saw was quite a bit more civilized than I had visualized. You have to go to places even more remote than we did to find people who aren't familiar with cell phones and the internet. Most people seem to be gravitating, both in expectation and actual fact, towards a type of lifestyle that includes a car or motorbike, a TV, a stereo, and a phone. I haven't the faintest idea whether or not this is ultimately good or bad, but count me among those who also likes to have a car, a TV, a stereo, and a phone.
Number two, and here I'll go out on a political limb at the risk of alienating whomever I haven't managed to yet: Andy Rooney once said, "Let me get this straight. In capitalism, the greatest good is served when every individual acts in as selfish and greedy a manner as possible. That can't be right, can it?" I'm no expert, as our readership may well have already concluded, in political science or sociology. But despite the multinational corporations, despite the lack of campaign finance reform and the power of money, despite every sleazy thing you think is true about America-and IS true about America, it appears that everyplace else just operates on a lower level. (Arguably, being able to kill people more efficiently than anyone else in history may not be such a good thing, but we'll table that discussion for now.) I've tried to figure the reason for this out the best I can and actually wrote a piece quoting Pearce, Dewey, and Weber, etc., but there's a good chance it's all wrong. To make it brief, it seems to me just that average Americans are the busy beavers of the world. It was quite an unsettling surprise when I found myself actually waxing nostalgic for their energetic, inventive, and enterprising style. I'm not unaware that, by tradition, I'm supposed to come back to the States with a backward, romantic glance towards simpler, less stressful, happier cultures and a rueful grimace at our own. But I just wasn't able to persuade myself that the attraction of such places was not the wistful mythical projection of the ancient human desire for Eden, which, for those of you who are not Biblical scholars, is a place us humans got kicked out of, and to which we are not allowed to return.