An Interview with Gar & Nicole, world cruisers, OCSC alum (Part 1)

Gar and Nicole, World Cruisers, aboard the DreamKeeper

Gar and Nicole, World Cruisers, aboard the S/V DreamKeeper © Nicole Duke

Gar and Nicole are currently exploring the islands of Palau in Micronesia. The couple took classes at OCSC Sailing in preparation for their big adventure. They are now into their 3rd year of cruising aboard their beloved S/V DreamKeeper, and were nice enough to answer a few questions for us.

Be sure to also follow along on their adventures by reading their own blog and looking at the wonderful photos they post on their site. Here is the link to the S/V Dreamkeeper site with the “where are they” tracker: And here is their blog: Without further ado… Part 1 of our three part interview with Gar & Nicole:

(OCSC) Do you remember how you first found out about OCSC?
(Gar): First we read everything we could on-line regarding the different sailing schools in the Bay and then looked at brochures and courses. OCSC consistently had great reviews. Then we saw you guys at the Green Festival. That pretty much decided for us.

(OCSC) Was this adventure you’re on now your motivation for seeking out lessons?
(Gar): Definitely. One day we sat down and looked at our lives together. What did we want to create for ourselves? What goals did we have together for the next 5 years? 10 years? We are both very driven by adventure and crave big challenges in our lives. We were both certain we wanted to share some form of big adventure, we both love the ocean and we both love to travel. A sailing journey was the best fit, however, Nicole had never sailed before except on a small sunfish she had growing up. But she wanted to do it and we started making small goals that started with her taking lessons at OCSC to learn to sail. I had done some sailing already, but never had taken institutional lessons and still had tons to learn, so we thought it would be a good idea to take lessons together so we were on the same page. This really turned out to be a wise decision and a blessing for our relationship.
(Nic): Ditto on the above. Gar and I are both strong willed and controlling people. We heard so many sad stories about couples “sailing off into the sunset” and returning divorced, jaded or being forced between selling the boat and the relationship. For us taking lessons and learning the same procedures, safety and communication I think has been one of the smartest things we did. Since we have the same training we understand each other a lot better and communicate clearly when making decisions. While we don’t do everything we learned at OCSC we have started with the same foundation influencing our decisions.

Nicole swims with a Barracuda in Palau, Micronesia
Nicole swims with a Barracuda in Palau, Micronesia © Nicole Duke

OCSC: Can you describe the process you went through to prepare for your voyage? What classes did you take at OCSC?
(Gar): It was about a 4 year process from taking Beginning Keelboat at OCSC to actually sailing out the Gate on our own boat and cruising south to Mexico. At OCSC, we took Basic Keelboat, Basic Cruising, Bareboat Cruising, and Coastal Navigation together. I also took Celestial Navigation. We chartered the J/24’s any chance we had and then later on started taking out some of the 30’+ boats on the Bay.

All the courses we took were really good and very helpful for both of us. But the best thing we did with OCSC was going on the flotilla to Greece. We chartered a 40′ yacht in Greece and invited 4 of our best friends to come along.

(Nic): We got a lot more competent sailing and maneuvering in tight places and we also got a small glimpse into the amazing opportunities that come along with cruising. It was not only a huge success in feeling more competent sailing a 40′ boat in a new country, but we had an incredible time with our friends and the rest of the OCSC folks who came along on other boats in the flotilla.

OCSC: What was your original vision/plan for this voyage?

(Gar): Our plan was very clear. From day one we planned on a circumnavigation. Like I said, we are very goal driven people and for us it was important to look at the big picture and have something to work hard for. I will also say we agreed to be open to ending it if it just wasn’t right any more. We planned on about 3-5 years when we started and now, if all still goes well, it looks like we should be sailing back under the Golden Gate in about 4 ½ – 5 years, in the summer or fall of 2011. It’s funny because we are now part of the international cruising community and many of our friends who live and travel on their boats tell us not to hurry and that 5 years to get around is really fast. This makes us laugh picturing the look on Nicole’s mom and dad’s face if they heard this. But for us we feel so fortunate to have 5 years and we think we will be ready for a change in our lives again with some new goals and new challenges that may not have anything to do with sailing or the ocean.

ditto. We always have a clear plan of what we want to do but sometimes serendipity takes us and those times have been some of the best. Our original plan was always to head down to Mexico, do the Puddle Jump to the Marquesas and sail through French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tonga and maybe Fiji the first yearWe followed the route before choosing to stay in Tonga in order to explore the Ha’apai group instead of heading to Fiji our first year. The Ha’apai are still some of our favorite cruising grounds. We definitely cut Fiji short and saw much less of it then we had planned this year. But we did get to see a festival in Vanuatu and spend two months in the Solomon Islands before going to Papua New Guinea (for a short stop) and up to Palau. We are always learning unless we want to and can be out here for a really long time there are always compromises and we can’t see everything. As we continue cruising we are gaining many important life lessons one of the most important is to be flexible. Cruising plans can and do change like the wind.

So our “plan” until we sail back under the gate is hopefully going to look something like this: head down through West Papua Indonesia known as Raja Ampat, through the Bandas Islands and down the traditional route through Indonesia, up to Singapore and Malaysia and then onto Thailand. Then we will cross the Indian Ocean and if it feels right stop in Sri Lanka before heading to the Maldives and up the Red Sea. After that three months in the Med, Christmas in the Caribbean with stops along South America, Panama Canal and somehow head home either west to Hawaii or a real beat up Central America.

The DreamKeeper
The S/V DreamKeeper © Nicole Duke

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our 3 part interview with Gar & Nicole Duke.  To be continued…

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Max Fancher

    Thanks Hilary! Be sure to check out Gar & Nicole’s site for more info and to check out some of their photography. Nicole is an amazing photographer and there are some really incredible shots in there. You can also click on the “where o’ where” link and see exactly where they are in the world. Here’s their main site:
    And here’s their blog…

    Thanks again!


  2. Hilary Loftus

    Hi Dreamkeeper & OCSC,

    Great post! Thanks so much for sharing some of your story with us “armchair world sailors” who are kept at anchor by non-sailing families & jobs, etc..

    Please write more, have fun living your dream, and sail safe!

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