Newly Salted is a project created by fellow cruiser, Livia Gilstrap to showcase a series of interviews with cruisers who’ve been out less than two years. She reached out to us to answer a few questions about our journey so far and we were happy to participate, especially given all that we’ve learned from more seasoned cruisers sharing their stories on the companion site, Interview with a Cruiser.
A quick background:
Matt was born in San Diego and spent his formative years feeding cattle and mucking stalls on the family farm in northern Idaho. After graduating college Matt migrated south to Dallas to start his career in advertising. Where as fate would have it, he met an explorer like himself and that’s where this story truly began.
Christie grew up in a small town near Houston, Texas where she discovered big dreams and a lot of spirit can take you pretty much anywhere. Following grad school, Christie immersed herself in exploring other cultures by traveling worldwide. After which she landed in Dallas to start her career in advertising. Where as fate would have it, she met an explorer like herself and that’s where this story truly began.
Along the way they fell in love with each other and with sailing through adventures aboard a little Fireball Skiff, a week aboard friends’ cruising boat in the Chesapeake, and as part of a local race team. Soon thereafter they bought Kaleo, a 1984 Aloha 34, with a dream of cruising and were married 2009.
Early last November they took sabbaticals, cast off the dock lines and cruised down the Gulf Coast bound for somewhere warm and tropical.
Kaleo has since carried them across the Gulf Stream, throughout the Bahamas and as far south as the remote Jumentos islands. You can read more about their travels and contact them on their website.
What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We woke up and went for it. The fastest way to make any dream happen is to take action. So we started turning “what ifs” into “what’s next”. We made a plan, set dates, worked hard, made sacrifices and celebrated along the way.
Our advice for any dreamer (unless you’re independently wealthy) is to get your finances in order. Before we were married, we lived like most people, with some debt and no significant financial plan. Regardless of going sailing or not, neither of us were content with our financial situation. So, we changed that by following the financial principles laid out in the Bible which were made easier by using Crown Mvelopes Software. The biblical principles helped us pay off all debt, empowered us to be more generous with what He has provided and save enough to live this dream.
Why cruising now?
The notion of breaking free, living simply and exploring the world in our floating home captured our imaginations. Since we decided to go now, we haven’t had time to acquire much. In fact, that’s part of the point of this adventure, being liberated from stuff and free to enjoy experiences and life at a different pace.
What’s cruising been like for you so far?
It’s humbling and exhilarating. Incredible and intense. Vivid and scary. It’s punctuated by exceptional highs and lows and all very real. It is not easy. And it is not for everyone, but we’re grateful to be experiencing it.
I guess with a dream you tend to only envision the good parts. But cruising is just like living any lifestyle. There is a balance of good and bad. The boat doesn’t magically fix itself and the wind isn’t always blowing the direction you want. But the feeling of actually living something you’ve dreamed of makes the challenges worth it.
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
That there will be days that your heart melts at how much you miss the presence of family and friends but that your heart will be equally filled with the joy of new experiences and connected with amazing people along your journeys that will touch your lives forever. Bonus is that Skype will bridge the miles to loved ones while you’re taking in these new adventures.
What do you miss about living on land?
- Family and friends
- Our home church
- Our own washer, dryer and dishwasher
- Instant connectivity
- Access to organic, fresh produce
Tell me your favorite thing about your boat?
How we’ve made it our home. All the little modifications that make it as livable as it is functional. From adding a large double sink with modern home-like faucets in the galley and refinishing the head countertop with granite to resting more soundly on a custom v-berth mattress and sheets.
Kaleo is very forgiving. From running aground to having up too much sail. No matter the situation she gets us through it despite our steep learning curve.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why?
- Bullet 2HP WiFi booster – Internet access on the boat when there are unlocked signals within about five miles
- Honda Generator Eu2000i – nearly as much shoreside power without having to be shoreside
- Cruise RO 20 GPH watermaker – more leisurely showers as often as we’d like, no worries when the tattletale water pump kicks on
- Lavac electric toilet – no looking, pumping or flipping a valve from wet to dry bowl. Just lowering the lid and pressing a button takes the guesswork and campingness out of going to the bathroom.
- Adventure Medical Marine 1000 Kit – the ideal cruisers’ first aid kit designed for short offshore adventures. Well stocked to tend to the crew if medical care is 12 – 24 hours away.
- Autopilot – other than anchoring or docking, R2-D2 pretty much pilots us everywhere
- SSB receiver – thanks to this and Chris Parker, what to expect for weather is rarely a question
- Handheld VHF radio – in the cockpit, in the dinghy, on the bow or ashore, this is like a cruiser’s cell phone
- Forespar Dinghy Motor Crane – I can’t imagine having to lift the dinghy motor up on the rail each time without the help of this device
- Cruise RO 20 GPH watermaker – freedom from the dreaded blue jerry jugs
What are some little things that made a big difference in your cruising experience?
Albeit not critical gear for cruising, these are a few things that we didn’t know to bring when we tossed the docklines but got as we were underway.
- Waterproof backpack – great for packing a change of clothes or the laptop on a wet dinghy ride
- Platypus PlusBottle – great for toting water on the go. It clips on a backpack and rolls down when it’s empty
- Lookie Bucket – a clear bottom bucket used for checking the anchor or looking at reefs without getting wet
- Hawaiian sling – a slingshot type of device used for spearfishing
- Clear dome umbrella – an easy way to stay dry on a wet dinghy ride while still being able to see in front of you
- Jump drive – for sharing photos and other resources with fellow cruisers
- MSR Packtowel Personal XL – Ultrasoft, compact, quick-drying and Anti-Microbial towel makes drying off easy in humid enviroments
- Smith Polarized Sunglasses – they look good and cut the glare on the water, making it easier to spot reefs and fish
- Canon Powershot D10 Waterproof Camera – known as the cruiser’s camera, it takes beautiful shots and stands up to the hard life of living in saltwater
What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Cape Horn Windvane – This is a superb piece of self-steering gear built for sailing around the world. Since we’re not crossing oceans during this cruising season, it’s underutilized and we could easily live without it.
How are you giving back to the communities you visit?
Kids have a big place in our heart. So, we’ve volunteered as tutors at a local all-age school and have taught kids’ church in the community. In addition, we connect with local churches to share resources that support children’s Christian growth. Our home church, Fellowship Church, donated DVD’s with lessons, songs, bible stories and kids’ gear for us to give out and so far they’ve been warmly received.
What are your plans now?
With hurricane season approaching, our route has taken us as far south as we will travel this season and we’ve now pointed the bow north. We plan to continue exploring the Bahamas until the end of May, then sail back across the Gulf Stream to Florida. But, we’re not ready to end our voyage just yet. From Florida, we’d like to sail up the east coast for a few months before stepping back into land life. And probably start planning our next cruise.