Mother Jones at 11 months

Welcome Mother Jones to Newly Salted. Read this interview as originally published on their blog. Editors note: Due to my own negligence, this interview was published on their blog months ago but is going up on this site just now. My apologies!
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So, there’s this really, really cool couple of blogs managed by Livia of S/V Estrellita. The blogs, Interview with a Cruiser Project and Newly Salted, both feature interviews of those who have been cruising for some time and those of us who just started out. I found them to be tremendously helpful when we were still sitting at our desks dreaming and scheming of a way to become  . . . Cruisers.

Because these interviews were so helpful to me, and because we’re no longer sitting at our desks – (drumroll, please)
we’ve becomewe’re everday becoming Cruisers, I thought we’d add our thoughts to the project.

Liva asks participants to self-publish our interviews and then re-formats and links back – how easy, peasy! 

About Us

S/V Mother Jones hails from Austin, Texas and is Captained by Damon and Laurie Jones, with minimal support by our Chief Security Officer Kemah (our dog). We moved aboard in December of 2011 in Punta Gorda, Florida and sailed to Panama stopping in The Bahamas, Jamaica and Providencia. We have blogged about our travels overland and aboard at www.SoManyBeaches.com. We love hearing from other cruisers; so don’t be shy, drop us a line!

What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising
D: I wish we had told ourselves to take a couple of navigation/sailing courses. Although I know now that, no matter what anyone teaches you, you (well, I) don’t really learn how to sail until you actually do it on YOUR boat. BUT, a “basics” of anv knowledge and sail trim physics would’ve been helpful…

L: We did a TON of research before we left, scouring blogs of other cruisers and basically soliciting any advice from anyone willing to share it. So, I’m not sure there were too many surprises. But, one piece of advice we got over and over and I’ll restate here was: GO NOW! We heard from a lot of old salts who said they or someone they were close to waited and waited to go and then they couldn’t due to health, financial or other reasons. They told us to go now and we’ll figure it out (financially) and so far that’s been true. 

As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?

L: In terms of being a cruising couple, learning how to sail together was challenging at first: we learned we deal with stress differently (he springs into action trying to figure out what can be done and I prefer to quietly think on it before acting and his action makes me more stressed), and we had different ideas of what makes a good sail, anchorage and social life. Navigating those new waters together takes time but we found slowing down, asking “why do you think that?”, “where do you want to anchor?” or “how do you want the day to go?” and then really listening to the answer has made a big difference towards being in sync.

L: Personally, I had a hard time transitioning with the distance from friends, family and making new friends – when everyone is a proverbial ship passing in the night. I love being a part of a community and D prefers his solitude. So, that means he’ll begrudgingly join me in meeting new cruisers, attending pot-lucks, etc and/or I’ll just go by myself while he hangs back. And, it means that as we look at going back out for the Season (and leaving our community in Bocas del Toro), I’ll be facing this challenge again.

D: Sleeping. On land, it’s easy to sleep through the night; you don’t wake up every few hours wondering if your house has wandered down the street or if someone else’s house is going to knock into ours if the wind changes. On the boat, I find myself waking up every couple of hours to close the hatch if it starts to rain, check our position and otherwise mind the boat. 

What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?

Ha! We’ve made a few for sure! We’ve run aground a couple of times (luckily, we’ve been able to just get out and push our shallow-draft boat off a shoal). We sailed wing-on-wing in 10 foot seas (and then ripped our head sail). We’ve drug anchor because we anchored on a slope and then the winds changed. We were too optimistic about sailing and almost ran out of gas a couple of times. Yep, we’ve made a few. 

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?

We love having the opportunity to spend so much time together. We love the challenge of learning new things (“what’s leech line, a weep hole, a Obida?”). We love being self-sufficient and spending so much time outdoors. We also love being part of an international community with so many different backgrounds and perspectives represented. And, of course, there’s all the exploring: from travelling a well-worn cruising path like Boo-Boo Hill in the Bahamas to finding the secret fish market or just a boat part, it’s always like a treasure hunt! Finally, there’s the striking physical landscapes of all the new places. My good friend who’s spent 16 years cruising says it best: “I love standing in my galley with my same old pots and pans and looking out on a whole new country!”. 

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?

I’m amazed at how some can be so narrow-minded when commenting on other cultures and living amongst other cultures as expats. I understand how things can wear on you, but if you wanted it “they way it is in X”, stay there or go back! 

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?

While I had read a lot about other people’s budgets for cruising, I mistakenly thought we could out-cheap other cruisers.  I thought we could stay under or around $1,000 per month, because, you know, wind is FREE! But, of course, the wind isn’t always with you, parts are expensive and depending on where you go, provisioning and Zarpes can also add up. 

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?

We have definitely found it to be true that there are always boat projects; it’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge: once you’re down to the bottom of the list, start again at the top!  I’ve also found the cruising community to be amazing. Regardless of who you are, how much money you make, your politics, race or religion, if you are in a jam, another cruiser WILL help you out.  A couple of quick things, too: The Bahamas is expensive, everybody has an opinion and don’t worry about food so much – they’ll have it there. 

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?

We wish we had an SSB for sure. We had an incident hundreds of miles from shore and only had a SPOT and VHF. Luckily, we were able to get someone on the VHF three hours into our ordeal that could relay to the Coast Guard. But, we’d love to have the added safety of the SSB for emergencies and for weather forecasting.

Also, given that Damon is a working electronic musician and I a writer, we’ve found our battery bank to be limiting to powering our equipment. We run the genny from time to time, wait for sunny days or go ashore to use computers.

Another cruising couple also told us they heard from others cruising the Tropics that they couldn’t have enough fans. We’ve added a couple here and there over the last year and would definitely second this recommendation.

Finally, a wish list item that hasn’t proved a deal-breaker yet is a windlass. We *are* the windlass on S/V Mother Jones. Luckily, because of the grounds we’re cruising and because we have a shallow draft boat, we rarely have a problem pulling up anchor. But, at 4lbs a foot (280lbs) anchoring in more than 20 feet can get difficult to pull up, especially if there is any wind. 

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Clothes, books and leather; we brought too much of all of it and in the Tropics, everything leather has molded. 

What are your plans now?

If they do not include cruising, tell us why. This Season we’re headed to the San Blas, then up the Western Caribbean Coast (Providencia, the Bay Islands of Honduras, the Rio Dulce, Belize and Mexico). And, we’re excited! 

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I’ve asked you and how would you answer it?

Having a dog aboard presents both pluses and minuses: we never worry about security, but have limited independence from the boat and in places we can cruise. Several folks have wondered about the strange looking PVC lined mat we have at the bottom of our swim step: it’s Kemah’s swim step allowing him to easily enter and exit the boat without our assistance. More info about our homemade, $40, swim step can be found here.