It had been a horrid day last year in November when we arrived at our destination Porto Vecchio Corsica in November. For much of the sailing we had battled wind gusts of over 45 knots, cold, rain and overall miserable conditions. Our welcome back to France was not fun. The marina had all but shut down for the winter weekend and the local French neighbour was not keen to assist our mooring in difficult conditions. It was then we met Dennis.
As a fellow sailor he saw our need and quickly came to our assistance. Thank God for friendly sailors!!
A new friendship was formed. For the next couple of ports we got to connect with Virginia and Dennis and they were the first world cruisers we talked to after 6 months of swanning around in the Mediterranean. We asked these guys what must have seemed like 1000 questions and they were generous and knowledgeable with answers. Wondrous much dreamed of names such as Marquesas, Tahiti, Galapagos and equator crossing were talked of. Having just sailed Turkey and Italy there was also tips and hints for our soon to follow journey south.
We loved it and we like this couple a great deal.
Virginia has been kind enough to kiss a fish and reveal a few insights after many thousands of miles travelled.
Virginia Kisses A Fish
Before your first kiss, would you like to introduce yourself including a quick mention about your boat.
I’m Virginia Johns from California, USA. I’m travelling the world on our 1983 Amel Maramu, Libertad, with my husband Dennis. We took off from California in 2011, just after retiring, on our westward circumnavigation adventure. We made it as far as Barcelona, Spain by the end of our 2014 season. Libertad has been a good home for us these past four years – proving itself to be a very seaworthy and comfortable cruising boat.
What are the highlights / low points to cruising and living on a boat?
The highlights are the destinations you explore and the people you meet along the way. We have had the chance to visit more than 20 countries and marvel at their natural and manmade wonders – from the Galapagos tortoises to the Indonesian komodo dragons, from ancient ruins at Ephesus in Turkey to the Cathedrals of Italy – we have enjoyed a great diversity of sights. And along the way we have enjoyed the hospitality of many locals. We have also made friends among the cruising community who we expect to stay in touch with forever.
There are lowpoints too. We just can’t see it all – you realize not only how big the world is, but just how much you find interesting in each country and at every stop. And with our route, we have had to say goodbye to new cruising friends at the end of each season – always seem to be going in a different direction for the upcoming season. Today’s technology helps us stay in touch and eases the pain of separation.
What was your first storm experience?
We bought our boat in Ft. Lauderdale, on the southeast coast of Florida. Having no experience with navigating a boat on open waters and overnight passages, we hired a professional captain to sail with us southwest around the Florida Keys and up into the Gulf of Mexico, as far as Texas. From there we would truck the boat to California. Captain Johnny was to go to the boat in advance and check out the equipment. When we arrived, we went together to town to purchase relevant charts and PFDs. That afternoon we set out with a plan for several nights out to sea before we stopped in St. Petersburg on the west coast of Florida. I am very susceptible to motion sickness and was currently using an electric watch-like device that emitted a pulse which seemed to keep my nausea in check on our day sails in California; I brought along eight batteries just to be sure. The first night out of Ft. Lauderdale we got into a big storm, 30+ knots and big seas. The boat did not have an autopilot so Dennis and Captain Johnny were taking turns steering while I sat in a corner of the cockpit very ill and useless (my nausea remedy having failed me). As the conditions worsened, we needed to reef the sails. Dennis went forward, with Johnny at the helm, only to discover that the reefing lines had not been rigged! We had to drop the sails and continue crashing through the seas. We plotted a course for Key West.
As I sat in my little corner I decided that when we hit shore I was getting on a plane and heading home; but I was also trying to think of a way to disable the boat to ensure that Dennis didn’t continue on alone. We entered the harbor in the middle of the night and wove our way to the marina’s fuel dock. Once secured we all dropped off to sleep. In the morning the sun was shining, my stomach was settled, and I decided I could carry on. Walking ashore to do a bit of shopping, we overhead the harbormaster commenting that anybody out at sea the prior day was crazy as it was wild.
Cruising friends tell me that I should consider myself lucky, that my worst storm experience is probably behind me! Of course, each experience is a good lesson….our reefing lines are now not only rigged, but rigged such that they can be deployed from the cockpit without going forward.
I continued my search for a better motion sickness solution…meclizine is now my miracle drug. And we took a weather class!
If you had to give any advice to someone starting out on sailing what would you say?
Take classes on seamanship, navigation, weather and such; get on-the-water experience, including offshore and overnight passages; and read about the cruising experiences of others in magazines and books. We got involved with the Santa Barbara Sail and Power Squadron, which is a part of USPS – a national boating organization in the US.
It was probably the most strategic thing we did in our preparation – they offer a full complement of courses and organize social cruises in their local areas. And all the while you are doing these activities, make lists! Makes lists of things to buy, things to learn, things to do – you will get a lot of good ideas for things that will make your experience enjoyable and safe. In addition, find a boating show geared to sailboats (“Strictly Sail” in the US). It is a great way to learn about the current equipment, enabling you to decide how you want to outfit your boat and get great deals in the process. These shows generally offer a wonderful variety of free seminars, given by folks that have been cruising for years and thus impart very relevant information.
If you could have 3 people to dinner from any time period, who would they be, and why?
John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy – two politicians I admired
Jesus Christ – I have some questions for him.
You can follow the progress of Virginia and Dennis as well as read their adventures via their site
A huge thanks to Virginia for giving the fish a big wet kiss.