Newly Salted – Our First Season Cruising: 10 Questions for Luna Sea

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We were recently contacted by Newly Salted to answer 10 questions about our cruising life.  I’ve always enjoyed reading other bloggers’ posts on the site, and was happy to take on the 10 question Newly Salted challenge! (Edit: I procrastinated all summer, so claiming I was “recently” contacted is a bit of a stretch…)

If you’re not already familiar with the s/v Luna Sea crew – we are Jennifer and Mark, mid-40 year olds who’ve had enough of the corporate world. We planned and schemed for 6 years to make this sailing dream come true.  Notice I did not say we are sailors in that description…  But we’ve managed to learn.  And after 6 months of cruising down the SE coast of Georgia and Florida, throughout the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, the Dry Tortugas and back north to Georgia – we’ve discovered just how suited we are for this cruising lifestyle!

10 Newly Salted Questions

solar for lithium ion batteries

More Solar!  

1) Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before you starting cruising?

Our new house battery bank.  We started our journey the first week of October 2016 – right about the time Hurricane Matthew came calling.  While riding out the storm, we learned that our house batteries were shot.  After limping back to the marina we’d called home for a few years, we upgraded to Lithium Ion batteries.  They are like magic.  I also wish we’d hung around after replacing them instead of rushing off down the coast of Florida.  Adding a few more solar panels proved necessary, and that certainly would’ve been easier to accomplish in the States.  But we like to learn things the hard way – so we learned how to have things shipped to the Bahamas…

Exumas, Bahamas cruising

The Exumas – some of our favorite islands in the Bahamas!

2) Is there a place you visited wish you could have stayed longer?   

Hands down – the Exumas.  We wanted to see as much of the Bahamas as possible this first trip – because we thought we were going straight to the Caribbean.  So we kind of rushed it a bit.  Turns out the Exumas were our kind of cruising – deserted islands, snorkeling, beaches, bonfires and the occasional grocery store.  We are heading there straight away this season and will definitely linger in the Exumas, check out the few outer islands we missed, and then jump down to Puerto Rico.

3) How much does cruising cost?  

The standard answer is “it costs what you have.”  But we actually have a budget.  The goal on Luna Sea is $1000/month.  Some months we come under, some months we go WAY over.  Depends on where we are.  The States are definitely more expensive.  Hard to beat living on the hook just off of a deserted island when you’re going for cheap.  I have a monthly series on the website listing all of our cruising expenses each month.  It helps keep me accountable – and is a great thing to share with other people that are/want to be cruising.

4) Describe the compromises (if any) that you have made in your cruising in order to stay on budget.

Eating and drinking out are our budget busters.  Meeting up with other people on beaches, and bringing along drinks and food are great, fun ways to keep on track.  That being said – we did save money while we were working, specifically for unexpected repairs.  So if the main sail rips or the engine dies – we have it covered without counting it toward our regular expenses.

5) What do you miss about living on land?   

Really just the people.  And a washing machine/dryer, I suppose.  And ice cream that stays frozen…  But the trade offs are 110% worth it.

6) What type of  watch schedule do you normally use while offshore?  

We previously did 2 hours on/2 hours off.  But we’d both be in the cockpit at the same time – usually trying to catch a nap when possible.  We’ve both become more competent and relaxed a bit.  Now we use a 3 hour rotation.  This is long enough to relax and get some sleep off-shift, and short enough to avoid getting over-tired on-shift.  Mark ends up taking an extra shift during day light hours, as I am the one in the galley making the food.  So we both stay busy the same amount – those sandwiches don’t make themselves.

7) How do you fund your cruise?

Rentals/Savings:  Years of being cheap frugal allowed us to save for big ticket items that are bound to come up.  (Hello new batteries!)  When we had jobs, we always made sure to live below our means.  That hasn’t changed.  So if we make $XX /month, we try to only spend half of that.

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

Cruisers are there to help when you really need it.  Just like on land, you won’t get along with every single person.  But if you need help in an anchorage?  Just pick up the VHF and call.  There will be half a dozen dinghies at your stern asap.

Gratuitous Palm Tree/Adult Beverage Pic

9) What is the next piece of gear you would add to your boat if it were free ?

Free, huh?  I really like Free.  It’s my favorite.  A new mainsail.  Ours is getting soft.  There’s a real word for that.  I don’t know it.  But I’d love to get a new mainsail before we head to the Caribbean.  Shoot, if it’s free, lets say all new sails!

Sailing Luna Sea cruising lessons learned anchor

Critical Equipment for a good night’s sleep

10) What is something you think potential cruisers are afraid about that they shouldn’t fear? And what is something potential cruisers don’t worry about that perhaps they should?

A. Fear of being alone.  Most people in the central/eastern United States head to the Bahamas for their first journey.  As soon as you get there, you realize this is not the unique idea you thought it was.  There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of boats there.  While you CAN be alone on some of the islands/beaches, you also will frequently have at least a few other boats nearby.  B. Ground tackle.  After sailing and anchoring in Savannah, GA’s soft mud for a few years, we thought we had anchoring down.  Turns out that the anchor we had just wasn’t cut out for the grassy/sandy/stone bottom of the Bahamas.  The very first day we got back to the States I ordered a Mantus.  We’re still testing it out.  So far, it’s been as impressive as expected.  But the real test will be when we get back to the islands!

Did you enjoy the Question and Answer session?  If so, check out the Newly Salted blog for some other really interesting interviews.  Have any other questions for us?  Feel free to comment below and we’ll try to answer them all!  And stay tuned – we are mere DAYS away from heading south again!

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