Frequently Asked Questions
These mostly relate to the boating aspect of our travel.
Q1. Woah, going out on your own small boat is way too dangerous, too risky, too expensive, and probably an awfully uncomfortable way to spend your time. You are foolish and stupid to try something like this, and you are obviously some deviant lunatics with delusions of grandeur. Take a plane and be a normal tourist, you will certainly have more fun.
A1. Hey, this is not a question, but was our first thought as well. We came in as skeptics. No matter how you look at it, the plan is amazingly ambitious and a very serious undertaking. We are in no way taking this lightly, and understand the risks involved. There are also tremendous rewards as well. It took quite a bit of research and talking to people to validate our plan was not fantasy. And that is what the rest of these FAQs are about. The simple answer is, yes, we can do this. We know it will be a challenge, as well as a deep learning experience.
Q2. Are you really going to go around the world?
A2. We plan to go around, but in life plans often change. Nothing is certain, if you really think about it. Many things could change our plans, for example costs being unexpectedly high or we decide we are not having fun.
Q3. What about pirates?
A3. There are indeed a few pirates out there. Piracy is usually of the mugging variety, where pirates attempt to steal money, jewelry, and electronics from the crew. There are also two kinds of piracy, commercial and yacht. Commercial piracy is mostly around China and Indonesia. Container vessels have 10-30 crew members which can add up to a decent amount of cash (payrolls). Historically a yacht piracy hot spot is the Gulf of Aden (entrance to Red Sea), with pirates running between Somalia and Yemen. At one point 1 in 100 boats got attacked there. We did pass that way, and with the military activity in the area, piracy there is on the decline. Technology can help prevent pirate attacks, such as calling for help or noticing we are being followed on our radar. We plan to be alert and cautious, especially in troubled regions. We are not going to let fear of pirates stop us. Thousands of people travel around this planet via small boat and have zero problems. “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
Q4. Are you going to carry guns?
A4. We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of defenses, such as guns on our boat. If you are going to become crew or a guest we will let you know how we will defend Kosmos.
Q5. You are not going on a sailboat. What if the engine or some other critical thing fails?
A5. On any boat, sail or power, there can be some serious problems if critical systems fail. As such, those critical systems are made as solid and redundant as possible. The main engine is the heart of the long ranger power boat, and it certainly gets plenty of consideration. For one, it is a very reliable diesel, run at low horsepower. This means it can run for literally three weeks, 24 hours a day, without stopping. It can run 20,000 hours without an overhaul (it will take us about 4,000 hours to go around the world). Simply put, these engines are well designed and proven to rarely have trouble. Hundreds of boats have used this engine without any failures. They are that good. Other critical systems, such as steering, navigation, communications, batteries, etc. have some form of redundancy.
Q6. Wait a second, you said main engine. Is there only one engine?
A6. Long range fishing boats almost all have one engine. It is more efficient, and generally more cost effective to only have one trustworthy engine. Also, a single engine design has a much more protected propeller, which can be important in some places. Our boat does have a complete secondary propulsion system called the “wing engine”. The wing engine sits off the side and has its own drive shaft, propeller, and fuel supply. Some people argue a wing engine is not necessary because the main engine is so good. Yet there could be rare times we might need to use the wing engine. For example, while the main propulsion system is very robust, it still could stall from bad fuel, or maybe a broken control cable. If that is the case, we can turn off the main engine and turn on the wing engine. Also, it is possible we might want to change the main engine oil or might want to check something out on the main, while still wanting propulsion.
Q7. What about bad weather, like in the movie “The Perfect Storm?”
A7. We will use all means possible to avoid bad weather in the first place. Advanced planning is used to navigate around regional bad weather seasons. Modern communication equipment provides up to date weather information where we travel. We can use professional weather routers, like OMNI, and an abundance of weather informationa available via the Internet. And, most importantly, not feeling forced to brave weather for any particular reason. Statistics indicate that about 5-10% of the time world cruisers encounter bad weather. Extreme weather is about 1-2%. Of course sometimes bad conditions happen. In that case we are prepared. First, the boat is very seaworthy. It is designed to handle extreme weather conditions. The more worrisome part is how the crew will hold up. Second, we have a good medical kit designed to handle medical emergencies at sea.
Q8. How fast is the boat, and how long does it take to get somewhere? How long are you underway?
A8. The boat goes about 6-7 knots (7-8 miles an hour). If we go around the world in 2 years, we will be underway about 20-25% of the time. When we go long distances we do not stop in the night, we travel 24 hours a day. The longest passage was from San Diego to the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. It was about 2900 nautical miles (nautical miles are about 15% longer than regular miles) and took 21 days. Most long passages average about 10 days. There are about 10 long passages to make it around the world on our planned route, including the trip to the Marquesas we have already done. The boat holds 1200 gallons of fuel, which yields a maximum range of about 3000 nautical miles on one tank (assuming about a 10- 20% reserve).. The actual fuel burn rate and range depends on weather conditions and speed. Slower equals less fuel consumption, and it sure helps to have winds and currents going the same direction you are. Most of the time we will travel at 6 to 6.5 knots, and for long passages we will slow the boat down to around 5.5 knots. Many people mistakenly think we will be spending all our time underway “on the high seas” . We will be spending the majority of our time exploring land. Here is the ratio of land to sea we expect:
Q9. How much fuel does it burn an hour?
A9. Our old boat ” Seas the Day “ was a single engine 8,000 pound boat that went about 25 knots. It burned about 15 gallons an hour at this cruising speed. Bigger dual engine boats range 20-40 gallons an hour. The Nordhavn 43 is about 55,000 pounds. Yet because of its design and slower speed, it consumes only about 2.5 gallons per hour. Slowing down burns as little as 1.8, speeding up can burn 3+. Said another way, we get about 2.5 to 3.0 nautical miles per gallon, which is quite good for a powerboat. As you would expect, this is one efficient boat.
Q10. If the boat does not stop on a passage, then who drives?
A10. First, we do not need to actively steer the boat. It has an autopilot. But someone should be on watch all the time. Being on watch is making sure we do not hit other boats and making sure the boat is running normally. The curvature of the earth and the speed, at which the boats travels means we should to check the radar and horizon every 15 minutes to be safe. We could actually collide with someone in as little as 40 minutes from the last time we checked. Of course we do have technology, such as a radar alarm, that help detect collision dangers.
Q11. How do you do watch if there is only two of you?
A11. We each take turns doing watch for 4 hours at a time. We sleep when we are off shift. The first night it is kind of hard to stay up, after that, you get used to the schedule.
Q12. What about fresh water?
A12. The boat holds 300 gallons of water. Also, the boat has a watermaker. This turns salt water from the ocean into fresh water. It runs off electricity created by the generator, which is powered by diesel fuel. It can create about 15 gallons an hour of ultra clean fresh water using reverse osmosis. We also have a DC watermaker that can make about 5-6 gallons an hour.
Q13. What about electronic communications?
A13. We have four short range radios (VHF, 1 installed 3 handheld), 1 long range radio (SSB), and 1 satellite phone. We get Internet access through the long range radio or sat phone, but it is very slow and gets very little bandwidth, so we can only really use it to receive and transmit small, text only email. We also have an EPIRB, which is an emergency satellite transponder with a GPS.
Q14. What kind of navigation and marine systems do you use?
A14. There are a lot of systems and items: radar, depth sounder, global positioning system (GPS), chart plotters with electronic charts, automated information receiver (AIS), weather fax, GRIB data, paper charts, autopilots, sextant, heading sensors, magnetic compass, lead line, barometer, pencils, dividers, rulers, binoculars. Both old and new technology help, and the technologies all complement one another. Generally, we have many ways to do the same thing when it comes to navigation. A fully integrated marine electronics suite is a nice luxury, and in certain ways safer than non-electronic/automatic systems. Yet, any serious boater has to assume the electronic systems could fail or malfunction. So, we use the sextant and other non-electronic items, as well.
Q15. What about electricity?
A15. We have 120 volt 60 hz alternating current (AC) and 12 volt direct current (DC) power. The DC power comes from the main engine and a bank of batteries. The batteries can be charged from the main engine or the generator. The generator makes AC power and the DC batteries can make AC with a handy device called an inverter.
Q16. What about laundry?
A16. We have a washer and dryer combo unit on board fed by the watermaker and generator.
Q17. Why do you need a dinghy?
A17. The dinghy is used to get to/from shore when we are at anchor. Think of the boat as the house and the dingy (also known as a tender), as your car. We have an inflatable one, named “Achilles” and a hard shell sailing one named “Kosmopolitan”.
Q18. But what if it all goes wrong, even though it is not supposed to? Do you have a life. raft?
A18. Yes, our life raft holds up to 6 people and has satellite transponder (EPIRB) so it is easy for a rescue team to find us. We also have a “ditch bag”, which contains additional survival gear. We hope to never use these things, but it is comforting to know there is some safety net.
Q19. What about medical emergency at sea?
A19. We have a large medical kit (including lots of medication), books, and some training. Some things are easy to handle, others might be difficult. We can hopefully call to get medical advice via SSB or sat phone.
Q20. What about motion sickness?
A20. Everyone can get motion sick, it just takes the right motion to set you off. Most people who initially experience seasickness will eventually get their “sea legs” and get used to the motion. There are a few people who never adjust to the motion. Likewise, different remedies work for different people. There are quite a few treatments and medication for motion sickness and we have a large number of remedies on board. Here is our blog entry on Motion Sickness.
Q21. Doesn’t a slow, heavy power boat roll from side to side when underway?
A21. Yes, in certain conditions the boat will roll quite a bit, unless we have an anti-roll stabilization system on. In fact we will have two such systems. One is called paravanes, which are large poles that tow metal fins that reduce roll. The other is called active fin stabilizers, which are hydraulic fins on the side of the boat that keep it from rolling. The reason for both is redundancy, which is a common theme in the design and options we have aboard.
Q22. What about speaking foreign language?
A22. Lot of people speak English, but we are going to try our best to use local language. Thank goodness for language programs on computers these days. Also there are some nifty voice recognition translator devices that are becoming available.
Q23. What about training?
A23. We have been preparing since 2003 with formal and casual training. In addition there are tons of great books and helpful people out there. It has been fun learning and experiencing everything. In addition to being able to move from place to place, a boat is like a small city. There are lots of systems aboard to understand.
Q24. Are you going to hire a professional captain?
A24. We did hire a captain for a short time for some training. We do not expect to hire a captain to help us do crossings.
Q25. When did you leave for full time cruising?
A25. April 28, 2007.
Q26. How much does a trip like this cost?
A26. When we were first doing research for the trip, we were frustrated because we always got the same answer: you can make it work on whatever your budget is. We wanted hard numbers. www.Bumfuzzle.com has a cost section and we looked at them when planning our trip.
Our biggest cost was the boat. We picked an expensive boat with lots of luxuries. A used seaworthy boat without luxuries in and of itself is not necessarily that much money it is the luxuries that can a boat expensive. The smaller your budget, the more luxuries you will have to do without. Also, we added a lot of redundant systems and safety items to Kosmos that added up to a lot of money. People on smaller budgets make due without these extras.
Our next biggest expense is fuel. We expect to use 10,000 12,000 gallons of fuel. Fuel costs can vary wildly from country to country. The third biggest expense is boat insurance. The premium is tied to boat value, so, while the cost varies from boat to boat, you will always choke on the cost compared to the boat value. Many boaters choose to forego insurance, but if you have a mortgage on the boat, insurance is mandatory.
All other expenses are small compared to these three. Food and alcohol costs vary wildly between countries, so if you are on a small budget, you will probably speed through expensive countries and linger in less expensive countries. Anchoring is usually free, though sometimes there is a nominal fee. Staying in a marina is expensive.
Immunizations and malaria medicine cost $1500 each and was not covered by health insurance. We also opted to buy overseas health insurance. Overseas coverage costs a fraction of coverage within the US. Our combined premiums for the year for full insurance was just a couple hundred dollars more than the employee portion of our employer provided coverage.
Over the years of planning we realized that leaving for a trip of this scope takes more than just money. The kind of budgets we see varies by an order of magnitude. More importantly than money are good health, a partner on the same page, a willingness totake certain risks/responsibilities, a compatibility with the various highs and lows of cruising life and sheer willpower and determination to make it happen. Also see Q47 and Q48.
Q27. Wouldn’t the overall trip would be cheaper on a sailboat?
A27. People tend to mistakenly assume a sailboat is less expensive, but it is not. First off, luxuries cost the same on a powerboat as a sailboat. A comparably equipped sailboat (washer/dryer, big freezer, air conditioning, etc) would cost the same as our powerboat did. Also, most modern sailors use quite a bit of fuel. In fact it ranges from 25% to 75% of time underway using their motors. Then consider a good set of sails costs tens of thousands of dollars. Robert Bebbe wrote a whole book with the argument that long range cruising under sail or power is really about the same.
Q28. How much does the boat depreciate?
A28. Boats typically are bad investments. We think the Nordhavn 43 is about as good of an investment as we can make in a boat, as long as we keep her in good shape. A few Nordhavns have actually gone up in value. They are extremely well made, trusted, and a specialized craft. In general we expect to not lose a ton of money, and hopefully hold about even. If well maintained, these boats can last 20-30 years.
Q29. Are you going to sell the boat now that you are back?
A29. We have put the boat for sale by owner. We do plan to go cruising again in the future, but at this point it is hard to say how far in the future it will be.
Q30. What books have you been reading?
A30. See Useful Resources.
Q31. How did you get this idea in the first place?
A31. Our boating experience began in 2000, when Eric bought a new 28 foot sedan powerboat (Bayliner Cierra model 2855). It was a wonderful rally point for friends and family. After a couple of years, Eric starting looking for a bigger boat so we could be more comfortable and get more friends and family on board. Eric found one he particularly liked, a model by Carver. We went to the Newport boat show to see it, as well as look at other similar boats. Walking the docks we saw a wide array of vessels. The Newport boat show mostly has very large, and very expensive boats (millions). Almost all, save a few “small” models were way out of our price range. So after looking at the Carver model, it simply became entertainment and curiosity to browse through the luxury yachts. Then there it was. The Nordhavn 40 footer had a sign saying “I can cross the Atlantic”. Christi looked rather shocked, “You mean all these other boats can’t?” she asked, pointing to the boats costing millions “What is the point of spending all that money if you cannot cross and ocean with it?” We walked up, took a very quick peek inside, and grabbed a one page flier. We then went on our merry way, not even talking about the Nordhavn at all. We decided that we didn’t use our boat enough to justify buying a more expensive one, since we both worked a lot and free time was limited.
Several months later we got engaged and started talking about our plans for the future. Christi really wanted to take a year off work to travel before having kids. Eric liked the idea of extensive travel, but wasn’t happy about the idea of living out of a suitcase for a year. Eric proposed traveling on a boat instead of a plane, which Christi agreed with. Eric began lots of research to find out more about life on a boat and which boat was right for us. We got several books, and scoured the Internet. After much research, Eric decided the new Nordhavn 43 was the right boat for us. The first one had not been built yet, so we went to Dana Point and looked at the 40 and 47. After some more training, research and saving, we were ready to commit to buying the boat and taking this trip if we liked the boat when we saw hull #1. The 43 was everything we had hoped it would be, and here we are now.
Q32 Why not just take a cruise or take a plane?
A32. Cruise ships do not spend enough time in port to get a deep experience. We want to meet locals and really see life in each place. Traveling by plane and train means hauling bags around everywhere. What you can have with you is limited to what you can carry. We want to be challenged, grow as people, and experience the world.
Q33. Did you have a sponsor?
A33. We did not have a sponsor of any kind. No, Nordhavn never gave us any kind of spiffs for saying good things about their boats.
Q34. Do you read your blog comments? How come you no longer respond to comments in the blog like you did before you left in April?
A34. We really enjoy getting comments! We read every single one. Due to our very limited Internet we cannot actually browse the site. Instead, comments are emailed to us on our sailmail account (via high frequency radio). We sometimes email answers to questions and will eventually respond to questions in subsequent posts. Also, we may put your question in the FAQ or Our Boat. Be patient, it may take us a while to respond.
Q35. Do you have people monitoring your position and movements in case of emergency?
Q36. Do you have a HAM radio license?
A36. Christi and Eric both have general class licenses (see Contacting Us). But we do not spend much time on the HAM. If you want to contact us via HAM let us know the UTC time and frequency you want to try.
Q37. Do you receive email through short wave radio? Do you need a license?
A37 Yes, we can receive email through short wave radio. Yes, you do need a license to use the maritime channels and a separate license for HAM channels. The maritime email service costs a nominal fee, HAM email is free. We have chosen to use the maritime channel instead of HAM because HAM has content restrictions.
Q38. Be honest, do you like your Nordhavn 43? Would you recommend it?
A38. The more we visit other boats and the more other boat owners visit us, the more we appreciate the 43′s design. Not too big and not too small, with all the luxuries you could hope for. The boat is heavy duty and well thought out for long range cruising. No crew needed — a couple can manage just about everything. The community and support from Nordhavn has been wonderful and helpful. It is nice to have lots of other people with almost identical systems pooling their information. Bottom line: For us, right now, we think it is the perfect boat.
Q39. How is the ride aboard the Nordhavn 43?
A39. There is no easy way for us to answer this question. First, we do not have much experience aboard other boats to compare. Second, this is a very relative question. Boats move, and they can move a lot. For some people this is no problem, for others it is a major problem. In our opinion, if you have trouble aboard boats, a different kind of boat (size, type, etc.) will not really help you that much. It is like riding roller coasters, some people cannot do it. Only if you can, do you start to compare differences. And those differences are usually pretty subtle. Also you need to compare apples to apples. There are essentially 3 kinds of boats: Full displacement mono-hull, multi -hull, and planning. Full displacement mono you roll, muti -hull you lurch, and planning you bounce and shake. All that said, we like the ride of our boat most of the time. For one it is very quiet for a powerboat. The motion is usually gradual, meaning there are minimal sharp movements. So you may be moving a lot, but you can roll with it. We feel we need stabilization for our comfort, and would not dream of going aboard a full displacement boat like the 43 without stabilization.
Q40. How is the low speed handling of Nordhavn 43?
A40. Once you get the hang of the large momentum of the boat, given its size, it gets pretty easy if conditions are moderate. The bow thruster can help in the beginning, but learning how to maneuver without it is not too hard.
Q41. Do you worry when you leave the boat at anchor? Will it drag, or will someone steal things?
A41. We do worry a bit, but we mitigate the risk as much as possible. In the case of the anchor dragging, we always set the anchor (pull on it with the engine to make sure it sticks) and put out plenty of chain. The more chain the better, but you have to be careful of other boats. Most people expect about 4:1 scope on chain assuming normal weather, unfortunately sometimes less. After anchoring we stay aboard a while, set the anchor alarm, and watch the GPS. It is handy to have a low power GPS display that can be your anchor alarm and show your movement around your anchor. Then we make sure we understand the weather conditions and off to shore we go. That first night at anchor is always stressful, but the longer the anchor holds well the more relaxed we generally get. Lots of people dive on their anchor to check it out, and we think that is good advice as long as it is not down too deep. In the case of someone coming aboard, it really depends on where we are. We ask other cruisers what the word is, and how concerned we should be. We generally lock up the boat, but if someone wants in, they will find a way. We try not to let it bug us. In every place we have been so far we have been very comfortable with our boat security.
Q42. Do you worry about leaving your dinghy ashore on the beach or a dock?
A42. Leaving the dinghy ashore is a risk you have to take as part of the cruising lifestyle. We do our few precautions, and then forget about it so we can focus on having fun. We have locks on the motors. We take the ignition key with us. We also have very modest dinghies. A local already laughed at our small 6hp motor on our Achilles inflatable. We do have two dinghies in case one is unavailable, either by theft of breakdown.
Q43. What dive gear do we have?
A43. We have a Bauer Junior 120 volt dive compressor, three steel tanks (yolk connectors), a male and female Maers buoyancy compensator with integrated weights, Aeris regulators and emergency regulators, Aeris dive computer, depth gauges, Manta fins, masks, gloves and booties. We had thin tropical water suits that blew away. We also brought 3/2mm and 5mm wetsuits that we have been using since. We have a 75 foot air hose that attaches to the tank and regulator for cleaning the bottom, and a single weight belt for use with the hose.
Q44 Are your charts accurate for approaching/entering islands and atolls? Do you use a depth finder or is Christi suspended on a log line?
A44. We always use the charts in conjunction with the depth sounder, radar and visual to validate chart accuracy. In most places we have been so far, the charts are right on, but we have gone a few places where the charts are off. We generally make a point of mentioning when we notice that the charts are off. Posts pertaining to chart accuracy can be found in the Cruising Guide category for the various stops. Usually, we are high up enough in the pilot house to see everything fine, but sometimes Christi has to go out to the bow and look over the edge for a closer view. Christi is prepared to go and stand on the roof, if need be.
Q45. What boat insurance do you use?
A45. We use and recommend IMIS Jackline.
Q46. Do you use a weather router?
A46. Yes! Ocean Marine Nav, Inc. Having a professional watch and guide you through weather is absolutely worth it.
Q47: How did you manage to pull this trip off?
Q48: Wow, you are sure lucky you could do this trip!
A46 & 47. This trip had little to do with luck and everything to do with proper preparation. We had to change all of our priorities in life, both financial and societal. We received a lot of criticism from people for making choices that go against the grain of society. We chose to postpone children. We chose to not buy the fancy house in the suburbs. We chose to not drive expensive cars. We chose to live frugally to save as much money as possible rather than be consumers. We chose to liquidate investments rather than saving them for retirement, which means we will probably retire later in life. We chose to leave our jobs, which many believed was “career suicide”. We chose to leave our friends and families behind. We chose to devote the vast majority of our non-working time to learn about boating, which meant sacrificing time with friends and family and sacrificing other interests in life. We had a lot of people tell us we were crazy and try to talk us out of it for dozens of assorted reasons. We had some people in our lives choose not to have anything to do with us anymore because they didn’t support our “deviant lifestyle” choices. We had to deal with hassles and headaches with logistical stuff like mail and bill paying and other responsibilities that don’t go away just because you are gone. The ties that hold you to life at home are strong and sticky and it is hard to pry them off of you. But you can do it if you really, really want to. However, most people are unwilling to change their priorities enough. If you view full time cruising as icing on the cake of life, meaning you can keep things status quo with your life at home and still cruise, it will never happen for you. Cruising is a new flavor of cake altogether, one with a stronger taste and a lot more nuts.
Answers to many more questions spanning a large variety of topics can be found in the Q&A category.
The options we chose for our boat can be found at Boat Purchase Options.
Feel free to ask more questions. We generally always answer them, but it usually takes a while.