This is an entire web by itself on how decide if you want to go cruising, and if you do, how to get out here and do it. Along the way we will share some of the decisions that we made and why we made them, which ones we would change if we had it to do again.

Dreams VS Goals

Why go cruising?


The Boat

Pneuma is covered fairly well in the about Pneuma page, here we are going to talk about general cruising boats. The most common question that we get from people that have not been cruising yet is what kind of boat should I get to go cruising in.

The answer to this question is “Any boat that you think that you can do it in.” We have been out here a while and have had the opportunity to see people out here cruising in everything from 20 foot around the buoys racers to over 150’ custom Mega yachts. Lots of other authors will tell you that you need a boat with X,Y,or Z features, each author feeling that their selection of features are much preferred to the features of the other authors. There have been people that have circumnavigated in Cal 20’s and people that have sunk and died in multi million dollar custom best possible, designed for the purpose, cruising yachts.

The only key thing that makes a cruising boat is the fact that it is out cruising not sitting at the dock, or on the mooring somewhere. Many compromises go into every boat that is made. No boat is a perfect boat, no matter what here adoring owners or sellers tell you. Each has strengths and flaws. The important part is for you to correctly assess those strengths and flaws, assess your proposed itinerary and then pick a boat that matches your skills abilities, and your itinerary.

What I would like to avoid here is writing something like many authors, telling you that you need a yacht just like mine, or that I know what is the perfect yacht for cruising. There are things that you should consider before purchasing a cruising yacht. The first of these things, is that you have to consider how swayed you are by supposed experts in the field. There are many of them in the field of cruising yachts. Some people feel very comfortable picking one of these “experts” and becoming true believers of that expert’s philosophy. The experts range from those that feel that you must have an old fashioned cruising boat without an engine, sail everywhere, and do everything the old way because the old ways are better, to those that mention the words only and the sum of $10,000 in the same sentence when referring to minor equipment on the boat. Provoked by the Pardeys or depressed by the Dashews, remember for every one of us that actually writes something in a book or on paper there have been probably over 1000 people who have been out here cruising without writing a single word about boat styles, rudder configurations, or philosophies of sailing. I would recommend that you become as knowledgeable about boats as you can, by reading all that is written with a grain of salt, adopting no hard and fast philosophies, instead looking at the things that make sense to you as your knowledge grows. Some things that you should be constantly questioning as you look at boats are:

Can I afford this boat and to go cruising on it.

  • Most of us would love a beautiful new 50 footer, few of us can afford one, and still fewer can afford one and to go cruising too. Make sure that the boat you choose is a vehicle to your goals, and not a deadhead to your dreams.

Is it of sturdy enough construction to take it where I intend to go in the conditions I intend to go there.

  • I have seen a lot of yacht advertisements talk about how their yachts went through a hurricane, or spent days and days on a reef somewhere, they generally utilize these strokes of luck to explain that their heavier construction is better than light construction, or that their yachts are more likely to stand up to the rigors of offshore sailing. Almost to a one these are the most expensive makes of boats available. By all means if you intend to go on a reef get the most well built boat that you can, I might recommend one built of steel, double hull plated, with armored forward watertight, torpedo proofed bow sections, reinforced with Kevlar shielding and a good deflector screen powered by dilithium crystals….. For the rest of you I recommend avoiding the reef by learning how to navigate, be vigilant in your watch keeping even when tired, stressed, or bored out of your mind. Use your own brain here and think critically and for yourself. We are all champion worriers, and we let these future improbabilities direct the course of our lives, and our boat purchases. Most cruising boats out there if correctly fitted out and maintained would take you around the world. Pick one with construction that makes you feel secure in sailing and living on it. Unless yours is a custom one off boat, there is more than likely someone that has done a long distance cruise on a sistership.

Are the systems on the boat dependable

  • What condition is the boats machinery in? Has it been maintained well by others and me? Is the equipment the correct equipment for what I intend to do with the boat? Are the boats accessories and machinery the correct size and type for the boat? These are the questions that lead to the answer of dependability. Sometimes honestly looking at something and saying “I think that is going to break” is as good an indicator as there is. Think like you would have to maintain a small city, that is exactly what you are going to be doing if you want to go cruising, the electrical department, the sewage department, the civil engineering department, all of it is you. Electrical, Sails, Engine, Plumbing, Water Tanks, Water Pumps, anchor gear, all of it. Some people will tell you that you have to have an electric windlass, other will say that you have to have a manual. Some will say you have to have a diesel, engine or a roller furling. None of them speak the truth unless your comfort and piece of mind demand that you have or don’t have a specific piece of gear aboard.

Is the boat comfortable for YOUR lifestyle?

  • I have met avid backpackers that loved the boat that they were cruising in, it had a single burner camp stove, two pipe berths, and a cooler in it. They sailed it around the world, for over 5 years, and were completely happy. I have also met a cruising couple on a 54 foot custom boat with everything I ever had in an apartment, house or condominium on it, and then some, who were unhappy and felt like they were always camping out. Look at who you are, and judge the boat to fit you, not the salesman’s description of life out here, or the author of some books description of life out here, your life right now, could I live on that boat, with that Galley, that interior, that headroom etc. See if you can try out a couple of friends boats for the weekend at the dock, could you live like this? Could I entertain some other boat people on this boat and be comfortable in my entertainment style? Curl up on a settee for an evening with a book, can I be comfortable here. Does the boat make me feel secure?

Finally take the boat out sailing before you buy it in light airs and in heavy.

  • Yeah the salesman will try to talk you into going on a perfect 15 knots day, with the sun shining. Take it out here to feel its best, then take it out when it is blowing over 30, and the seas are a little angry. Can you reef it easily, does she handle the seas well or like a wet sponge. Again ask do I feel comfortable, and secure in this boat. Take it out again when it is blowing 5-10 knots can you still make her move? Remember that over 30% of your sailing is going to be UNDER 15 knots! Sail on as many boats as you can of various sizes and constructions, not just racing, not just cruising, a little of both, get a feel for what boats are like. If you say, I can’t afford to charter boats like that, put your name up on a local yacht club bulletin board with a piece of paper saying will sail anything with anyone anywhere, and see what turns up. Better still show up at the yacht club on a casual race night and ask who has a 40 footer that I could pull some strings on tonight. Watch the ensuing packs of crew short skippers who descend upon you carefully, or your left arm may crew on one boat and your right on another.

Getting Ready


Loosing the fear of Passagemaking This is an e-mail that Melissa wrote in responce to the questions that were asked by a couple of our friends back on land. These friends are cotemplating long term cruising. It is applicabel to anyone that is intrested in passage making.

I am kind of amazed at my thoughts on passages these days, but here they are. Coming down the California coast was pretty easy after the 5 day passage from Astoria to SF. That trip was difficult for me because it was my first real off shore passage. We were also supposed to have crew for it, which made me feel good about doing it, but at the last minute he cancelled. I was very nervous about it being just the 2 of us, and the fact that for no known reason I got seasick on the way to Astoria didn't help. Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I am sure that was due to emotional issues and stress much more than seastate. So I doped myself on dramamine all the way to SF, and had a great trip. Who knows whether I needed it, but psychologically it made a difference.

After that passage, the rest were overnighters, or 36-48 hour passages. They got much easier for me, and my body got into the rhythm of the watches the the strange schedule much faster. It got much easier to switch into and out of the watch schedule. As I adjusted I found I even ate more normally on the passages, where as on the way to SF I ate broth and noodles a good portion of the trip.

When we left La Paz to come to Mazatlan I was worried a little because we hadn't done a passage of any sort in months. But we had learned a lot about how to do passages, so it turned out not to be an issue. We have learned to nap a lot. Both of us take at least one nap a day. And we don't expect a lot of extra from each other the first couple days, as we adjust to the schedule. Food the first few days out is pretty simple. We also cut each other a lot more slack, realizing that tempers flaring are probably due to lack of sleep and the issues of living in an abnormal situation. (If only we could keep doing that after the passages!)

For me, crossing the pond was a really big issue. I never really wanted to cross an ocean, and I don't think I really believed that I ever would. But when I married Guy I told him I would sail around the world with him. And I keep my word. I was really worried about being out of sight of land. Sure, I had been before, but in the past, if we had just sailed in-shore for about 6 hours, there it would be again. This seemed different. I was really worried about being my own little island, way out there on the big ocean. But we sailed away from Mazatlan, and it disappeared into the sunset (what a beautiful way to go!) and in the morning there was no land, only beautiful water....and that was it. I was worried over nothing.

By far we find the first 3-5 days of a passage to be hardest. Sleep deprivation tends to nauseate me, so for the first few days I drink a lot of chamomile tea and eat pretty lightly. But as your body adjusts to the schedule your appetite returns. You would be amazed at how hungry you get on your 4am watch! I would have tea at four, and apple at 5, a pack of granola bars at 7, instant oatmeal at 8, sleep til 10, then have brunch with Guy at 11, usually something substantial.

We found the biggest issues were food, hydration, and sleep. Any time one of us didn't feel good it was due to a lack of one or more of these 3 items, and it usually didn't take much thought to figure it out. I would say that a nap of at least one hour a day, 2 hours if you can, is critical. I did not perform as well or last as long on watches if I missed my nap. We used earplugs to filter out background noise when sleeping, and the stereo and books on tape to stay awake on watch.

At moments during the passage I thought I was insane for doing it. I really hated the night squalls, for some reason they all seemed to come on my watch. One night I got pooped twice and had 4 squalls in 2 and a half hours. I was furious, which of course, is a useless response. But those days/nights passed relatively fast, and soon we were through the squall zone. The worst part of the squalls was the sleep deprivation, much more than the gusty wind and rain that usually didn't last more than half an hour.

As the end of the trip neared I thought I was riding the fence on whether I would ever cross an ocean again. I told Guy not to ask me that question (would you do it again?) for at least 6 months. But sitting here in Anaho Bay on Nuku Hiva, I can say all those moments of frustration (including having the stove pinch my butt) were worth it. Yes, I would do it again. In some ways, it is a lot of work. Living on a 15 degree heel gets tiring. Some days we both just felt so frustrated trying to walk around in the boat. But then there is the pure adrenaline rush of your boat surfing at 9 knots, down 12 foot swells, hurtling into the darkness leaving phosphorescent waves behind. And there is the night you see your first green flash. And the first time you see the Southern Cross. And the first scent of the tropical islands. And all the things you learn about yourself on the passage. And the healing of all the past hurts that begins in you. Time expands infinitely, and yet passes so rapidly. The first four days you are adjusting to this new life, and then suddenly it is day 17, and you can't figure out what happened to the intervening days. There is so much to do, yet so little to do. Every day is different. No, it isn't a cakewalk. But it isn't that hard either. The hardships are psychological. I had all these ideas about how aweful it might be, and all these things I thought would be really hard about it. And I was wrong. Things I thought would be really hard for me (no land) weren't issues at all. The reward is well worth the work.

As for the boat, she performed really well and was really very comfortable, even in less than ideal sea conditions. (We had some 16 foot beam seas. They sucked, but there was nothing wrong with how Pneuma rode them out. It just made it hard for us to walk around and cook, etc.) All of our passages until this point had been downwind, and so any problems we had as a result of beam seas, were, in a certain sense, self induced. For example, our sea berths turned out to be too big in beam seas, and we would roll in our beds. We had never encountered this problem before. Fortunately, we found and easy solution only a couple days into the trip. We have some changes we will make to prevent those problems from happening again. Mercifully, we had no severe problems, only minor inconveniences. Overall I would have to say that I built the experience up in my mind to be something much worse than reality could match. For me it worked really well to have a year's worth of shorter practice passages to work up to the big one.

That's all for now. The water is really clear, so it's time to hop in!



Types of pans, utensils, plates etc. to have or not have: suggestions about that kind of stuff now that you are actually out there?

Okay, you know us; we have tons of cooking stuff on board. Here's what I wouldn't give up so far. Get the biggest cast iron skillet you can reasonably use on your stove. I think ours is about 8 inches, and that is all the stove can heat on those little burners. You are going to make a lot of tortillas, skillet bread (after I send you the recipe) and pancakes in this thing. Get a 6 quart pressure cooker, this will also give you a large pot for big batches of pasta or cooking lobsters in your case, as well as dried beans, etc. (Magefesa rapid 2 was rated best by Cook's Illustrated magazine. Comes in 4,6, & 8-quart size, all cost $99 when we got ours. PCC used to sell them. Or you can call 800-923-8700. We love ours to death--it's cheaper than any of the others and is the best one out there.) You will have plenty of time to cook out here. Then bring a 4-quart pan with lid. I also have a 2-quart and a 1 1/2 quart saucepan that I use a lot. And I have what is called an au gratin pan with a lid that gets a lot of use. (It's like a frying pan but it has 2 little handles instead of one that sticks out, and a domed lid.) When it's not hot season you will probably make muffins, because you will get bored with pancakes. Since I've started making skillet bread and barbecue bread I am using the cookie sheets and pizza pans a lot. I have 2 large bowls on board. One we use a lot, the other only when the one is full, I just can't part with it because it came from Grandma. I have a set of stainless mixing bowls with lids that nest, and they get a lot of use. I have about 6 wooden spoons and 4 spatulas, and 2 sets of measuring cups and spoons. This seems about right. Pasta server, tongs, 2 flippers.... cheese grater, garlic press. I have two 2quart pitchers that see a fair amount of use. What else do you want to know?

Going to the market

We have one egg keeper, at some point I will get another. Eggs are sold in flats here, or even singly, so you will, except in places like La Paz, need your own container. If I don't bake bread like crazy, 24 eggs will last us about 6 weeks, because I'm learning eggless recipes too, so I have options. I have a box of the Energy egg replacer on board. Their pancakes are good if you add 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp sugar to the recipe. Cinnamon is a good addition too. If you use a lot of eggs, you'll want more keepers. So far that is the only thing I take to market with me, besides a pack to carry it all home in. Mexicans are in love with plastic bags and will quickly overwhelm you with them. I use them for garbage so I don't mind, but if you don't want them all, bring your own. Guy says to tell you their bags are shit, but I think it's just because they can't pack a plastic bag here any better than they can in the US, the strategy is just different;-)

Hauling it to the boat

Remember all those plastic bags above? Tie them shut at the top and load them up. You'll supervise packing anyway, so you can make sure everything is well protected. Our newest purchase is 2 backpacks, which we think is going to be the best solution to the laundry/grocery/parts hauling problem. Ours are made by Synergy Systems, and they are the best things out there. One problem, they don't make them any more. But here's the inside track. We know the designer, Ken Keorwitz on Jazz, and a very good friend. Some are still available, I believe, at Sport Townsend in Port Townsend. Ken has a few left he is clearing out, so we could pass on the phone number/email to you. But you probably would have to act fast. We could not have made the trip back here with out them. The front loaders we got can have all the harnesses, etc stripped off so they look like luggage, which they will certainly double as, and we can get rid of some duffle bags. We hauled laundry and groceries as soon as we got back, and it was great. These are very well thought out packs, and very ergonomic, and adjustable to you in ways that will amaze you. Let us know if you want to do this.

So now you have made it to your dinghy with 300 pounds of groceries. Frankly, I cannot imagine what it would be like if my dinghy were already loaded with containers to fill. Come to think of it, they'd be getting UV'd to death while I was gone. (I thought I understood UV stuff until I went to Mexico. The power of the sun is just astounding. I cannot describe to you how fast the sun destroys everything down here. Buy a truckload of sunscreen--it's expensive here.) So here are 3 approaches. Tao just takes it all home and puts it away. They've had a few bugs, nothing major. Yehudi takes everything to the boat, but cleans it all, including produce, in the dinghy and inspects it all, etc. None of the garbage left comes on board. They got cockroaches. But they are pretty sure they got them at the dock in Mazatlan. We think they are right. We load it into the cockpit. Then we strip labels and re-label cans. We transfer flour into our containers, etc. Then we organize it inside and put it away. This will take you forever at first, but you will quickly become a pro as things find their natural home and you get used to it. I must admit, since Yehudi had roaches, we are more careful about inspecting packaging, etc. We also bought bug bombs, just in case. I did have some bugs in my chili powder. The bag was kind of worn when I bought it, and I should have asked for another. So I figure I brought that on myself. We also had weevils in some pasta. The pasta came from La Paz, and was anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months old that I know of. So no surprise I guess. This has led to one new procedure. I take like bags of pasta and bag them together in one Ziploc for storage. The bugs may get out of their pasta bag, but I'm told they won't escape the Ziploc too. You will generally find that packaging down here is a lot less than in the States, so it isn't as bad as it sounds. And the first time you bring home that much food, you'll be happy to change out containers, because you already have planned space for them.

Is washing dishes, laundry and yourselves difficult or do you have a good process for all three which conserves fresh water?

You want honesty, right? In my opinion, laundry sucks!!!!! I get very grumpy when I have to do laundry. The good news is, it's cheaper here to have laundry done than to do it yourself. So far, we have done laundry only when we have run out and been desperate. I usually wash it in a 5-gallon bucket of salt water with Joy. Bad stains, etc I attack with a stiff brush. Let it soak a while. Then I rinse in salt water too. After that I give it a soak in 5 gallons of fresh water, to try and get some of the salt out. So for underwear, and a few pairs of shorts and t-shirts apiece, I use 5 gallons of fresh. I did a test on Guy, and left one of his shirts rinsed only in salt water, and told him he would have to tell me which one, if he could. He never knew. But I can't quite get over not rinsing in fresh water. Clothes do take longer to dry rinsed in salt water. I never feel like I get stuff clean enough, but at least it doesn't smell. I like to do laundry on watermaker day, because our brine goes overboard through the cockpit, so I can just grab the hose and use it for rinse water.

Dishes aren't bad. I have a salt-water tap so I wash in salt and rinse in fresh. Make sure the tap is convenient or you won’t use it. If you look at the water outside and go EEWW, wash in fresh. I keep a spray bottle of soapy water, and I try and scrape all the food off the dishes, then spray them down to wash them. It's also handy if for some reason you dash off before doing dishes. Just spray them before you go, and they come clean more easily later. Use minimal fresh water to rinse. You could even rinse in salt to get the soap off, then fresh afterward. If you guys install a water maker, you won't worry as much about this. You have to run it every 10 days anyway.

To wash us, we have a 2-gallon garden sprayer we bought at Home Despot for 20 bucks. The spray is adjustable and it works great. We can wash us, and our snorkeling gear in 2 gallons. It is also handy for rinsing hardware, etc. Wouldn't leave without one.

Well, that's my thoughts on your first batch of questions. Hope it helps.


The cruising world is roughly divided into two groups of people. Those who wanted to go cruising and left, and the far more numerous group that want to go cruising and never will. Some of this relates how people live their lives with Goals and Dreams, but a large part of it deals simply with the act of leaving.

Leaving your culture to follow your cruising dream is the hardest part. There are many thoughts, which keep people tied to the dock; socialization, fear, "getting the boat ready", and money, just to name a few.  


    Throughout our lives we are subject to the rules and values of our societies. Our understanding of these rules and their incorporation into our lives is called socialization. How we grow up and learn to function in society, our goals, values, and expectations for life are all set through our socialization. If we have the dream to go cruising and get away from it all, we are leaving our society to go live in the society of others, or the society of only ourselves. This leaving of our own society raises certain problems for most people. The biggest problems are psychological things within us, which resist our urge to leave our society. Why is it so hard for us to even think about leaving society to go cruising, hiking Europe, or for an extended space voyage?

    In most societies, it is a key value that you remain in the social setting in your place doing what is expected of you. This is one of the basic building blocks of society, should all of us feel absolutely free to leave and enter the social group at our leisure, we would be unavailable when our social group needed our help, or to perform our function in that society on a daily basis. In short, the moment that our neighbor on the savannah yelled "lion attacking" we'd strap on our running shoes and head out on the road faster than the rest of the village. Since they were slower, they would perish in the claws and teeth of the lion and that would be the end of them. If you think about this for a moment, after a few lion attacks there would be no one left who ran slower than you, so you to would be lion food. Societies are the human invention, (some would argue that they are a human instinct, hard coded into our genes), to allow a fragile being to exist in a harsh environment. A group of people is much stronger than a single person is, and therefore more likely to survive lion attacks, economic downturns, drought, famine, etc.

    From the time that you are born those around you attempt to make sure that you understand your place in the society, and that you should not leave it, after all everyone's very existence on some level might depend on your being there when they needed you. This not only insures that you will be as safe as possible in most cases, but also assures that the society will be safe from change. Change upsets people, and therefore societies, it makes people question values, make choices which are different from their neighbors, and generally takes a lot of work to get everyone back to the same, or at least close values and actions. So the easiest way to prevent change, is to make everyone think that they have a perfect place in the society that they are in, then encourage each other to stay there. So as you grow this is engrained in your own psyche, don't rock the boat, if I work hard and keep doing what I am supposed to do, then I will be able to have a house, a good life, children, and retire when I am 70.

    The values of the society that you live in become your own values, so when it comes time to do something completely different and outside of the norms in that society you will internally question those things that are not in line with your socialization. If you come from the majority of the western world, (you are after all reading this on a web site in English, not a completely bad assumption on my part), you might think something like the following examples: If I go cruising what will that do to my retirement account? I won't be putting anything into it for the years that I am out on there cruising. What about my career? My peers will be getting ahead while I am out there sailing around having fun instead of working. What about health insurance, what if I am sick or injured outside of the country I am from? I might have to sell my house to go cruising, owning a house is a good thing, do I really want to give that up? What about my family? My parents are getting older; I should be there to help them if they need me. There are about a million of these thoughts that you will think if you seriously consider going off cruising. They are your enculturation. Each of these questions point to the underlying values of the society that you live in. In order to escape your own culture you are going to have to understand it better than you have ever before. You have to ask each of these questions, and come to reasonable answers that fit who you are, not who society expects you to be. It is the cultural values of a non-nomadic lifestyle that you are going to have to understand and accurately judge for yourself in order to leave that culture. You don't have to become an advocate of the nomadic life style, converting others to cruising, * just know when your own enculturation is acting against your goal to leave. One of the strange things about cruising is that once you leave you will find a lot of support for cruising, after all there is a cruising culture, with values of it's own, leave the society of the landlubbers you enter the society of the cruisers with just as many values and enculturation!

    *Should you find yourself trying to convert others to the cruising lifestyle, it generally means that you are not comfortable with your choice yet. We try to convert others to our position when we need reassurance for our own ideas. Those that are confident in their actions and their reasoning rarely try to convert others to their position (religion excepted). If you are trying to talk all of your office mates into buying boats and heading out on the briny blue with you, you need to relax and think about the reasons that YOU want to go. Besides, if you try and convert them to cruising, they are going to try and convert you to stay and get your retirement package. Read on to learn about counter conversion techniques.

Cruising Relationships


All materials Copyright ©2002 by Melissa and Guy Stevens. All rights reserved.