Bluewater Gear Interview
Two voyagers on a slow circumnavigation
Marcie and David Lynn in Sydney, Australia. Just one stop on their unhurried way around the world.
After 12 years of living aboard their Liberty 458 cutter Nine of Cups, Marcie and David Lynn have put nearly 70,000 cruising miles under Cups’ keel as they continue their slow circumnavigation of the world. Neither had any sailing experience growing up. In their 40s, they took some sailing lessons, did some chartering in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean and read every relevant book and article they could get their hands on. The plan was to retire when they were 50 and sail off into the sunset...and they did.
David had wanted to sail the ocean and see the world his whole life. On the other hand, the thought of sailing around the world never even occurred to Marcie.
The Lynns purchased Nine of Cups in Kemah, Texas, in 2000. They wasted no time in getting Cups ready to sail across the Gulf of Mexico and up the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. Since leaving the dock in Kemah, they’ve managed two transits of the Panama Canal, a circumnavigation of South America, a passage across the South Atlantic to South Africa and a trans-Pacific crossing. Their travels have taken them to out-of-the-way places like Tristan da Cunha and Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of the world and Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Suwarrow atoll and the Chatham Islands in the South Pacific. Next on their itinerary is Tasmania and then Asia. Marcie and David put their cruising philosophy this way: “Our philosophy for cruising: Do it until it’s not fun anymore. Right now, it’s still fun.”
Marcie and David Lynn’s boat Nine of Cups in Sydney Harbor.
OV: What is your philosophy regarding voyaging gear? Do you like a systems-rich approach or do you prefer to keep your gear simple?
M&DL: We’ve always tended more towards simplicity and reliability, but we’re certainly not purists when it comes to adding gear we think will make our cruising lives easier and safer. We tend towards as few mission-critical pieces of gear as possible. Considerations for adding new gear always include power consumption and whether or not we can fix it ourselves or do without it if it breaks.
We’re probably somewhere in the middle when it comes to how we compare gear-wise with other voyaging boats we’ve met. Systems we’ve kept simple are sail-handling gear, watermaker, refrigeration, heads and communications. We’ve seen boats with every gadget and gizmo known to man aboard and others with no refrigeration, no SSB, no watermaker and no chartplotter. We haven’t seen anyone without a GPS in the last few years though.
OV: How do you decide what spares to carry? Has your mix of spares changed as you have voyaged more widely?
M&DL: We carry lots of spares especially for what we consider to be essential systems. More and more, we meet cruisers who feel air freight and Internet access make getting spares easy and cost-effective and so they carry few. While this philosophy works well for coastal cruising, it doesn’t work well when you’re 1,000 miles out at sea. We tend more towards self-reliance and knowing we can make most repairs at sea if necessary.
For instance, the engine starter failed on a long passage from Easter Island to Ecuador. Several attempts at repair failed and left us without the ability to recharge the batteries. Our original thoughts on a spare starter were that 1) it was too expensive and 2) we’d always figure out a way to start the engine...after all, look at all the winches and blocks we have aboard. Nothing worked and now we carry a spare starter aboard.
OV: What tools do you have on board? How much repair work do you attempt yourself?
M&DL: One reason our waterline has been lowered over the years is because of all the tools we carry aboard. We have all the basics...hammers, many sizes and types of screwdrivers, wrenches and sockets. Additionally, an invaluable Dremel tool, a power drill, grinder, sander, jigsaw, clamps, vise, vise-grips, soldering irons, a huge cable cutter and many more, too numerous to mention. We also have a Sailrite sewing machine. At one time or another, we’ve used them all.
We consider our library of reference books aboard to be invaluable tools and more and more we rely on the Internet as a research tool for repair and maintenance projects.
We attempt every repair ourselves. David has replaced the engine himself, replaced all rigging, installed and repaired most systems aboard including plumbing, refrigeration, electrical and electronic. He’s made fiberglass repairs and dinghy repairs. Marcie has repaired sails, replaced sail covers, bimini, dodger and worn UV on the head sails. We certainly ask for help when and if we need it, but always give it a go ourselves first.
Cups underway in mid-Pacific.
OV: What kinds of repairs do you think all voyagers ought to be able to handle?
M&DL: If you’re planning a passage, you should be able to repair or jury-rig anything you can’t do without until you can get to port. This includes basic engine repairs, sail repairs, steering as well as basic electrical/electronic repairs. Part of passage planning is considering all those things that could go wrong and how we would handle the repair or how we’d manage without the system.
OV: Do you use wind vane self-steering or do you rely on an electronic autopilot?
M&DL: We rely on an autopilot and, in fact, have installed a redundant system aboard since we consider this an essential system for long passages. We’ve learned that the boat will self-steer upwind quite nicely and take advantage of this whenever we can, but the autopilot is a key ingredient for our cruising comfort.
OV: Do you have a watermaker? How easy is it to use and maintain?
M&DL: We have a simple watermaker (PUR/Katadyn) that consumes minimal power and produces about three and a half gallons per hour. We’ve had it for 12 years and have had very few problems with it and the problems we have had were easy to repair. We’ve replaced the membrane once.
Using it is simple, we just turn it on and switch it to the tank when the water sample is acceptable. If we’re not using it for three or more days, however, it requires pickling which is not hard, but does take a few minutes. When we purchased it, it was the right system for us. If we had to replace it now, we’d probably go with one of the newer high-volume, engine-driven systems.
OV: Do you use a combination of paper and electronic charts for navigation?
M&DL: Yes. We’ve only had the chartplotter for three to four years, but we’ve come to rely upon it more and more. That said, we still carry paper charts aboard and have redundant notebook navigation software. Our main reasons for still carrying paper charts aboard are: 1) the fear of losing electronics during an electrical storm; 2) in some areas (e.g. Patagonia, Fiordland), paper charts have much more detail than the electronic charts provide.
OV: Have you equipped your boat with a tablet device like an iPad? Do you use a smartphone?
M&DL: We have neither an iPad nor a smartphone aboard.
OV: What mix of communications gear do you use when voyaging?
M&DL: We have a VHF, of course, which is now equipped with AIS. We have a SSB radio which we use for e-mail in conjunction with Winlink and/or SailMail and also use it for weather and voice communication with various cruiser nets. We do not have a satellite phone aboard although we know more and more cruisers who do.
OV: What new gear do you plan to purchase for your boat and why?
M&DL: An iPad with GPS and electronic charts is the next purchase on our wish-list. We’ll use it as a redundant/repeater system in the cockpit. Other than that, we’re pretty happy with our current systems.