[OCSC]: Can you describe the feelings you felt the day you went out the Gate and turned left?
[Gar]: It’s still as clear for me as the day we left. I was a total wreck emotionally and psychologically exhausted from all the work getting ready to actually leave for good. We had been working non-stop for months when we sold our houseboat we lived on, sold our cars, and pretty much everything we owned. On top of that I was working on the boat constantly installing gear and getting our boat ready for the big journey. We had high expectations of doing some smaller trips to prepare for the big event, but never felt like we had the luxury of time to do it if we really wanted to leave before winter storms blew in. So we never did any smaller overnight trips and we had lots new gear we still hadn’t used much like our radar, windvane, etc
When we actually sailed out the Gate a couple of days after Thanksgiving in 2006 it was a powerful experience. It was a gorgeous crisp sunny Autumn day and a school of dolphins escorted us out into the Pacific. Nicole’s folks were on the bridge waving a flag to us and Nicole was waving one back from our bowsprit. We were on a beautiful beam reach and everything was perfect. It finally hit me that we were actually on our way and I was so exhausted, so excited, and so nervous all at once, that I just broke down and cried for a long time.
[Nicole]: It feels like a lifetime ago. I remember being excited scared and open to everything. Mostly I was scared and my stomach was somewhere up in my throat. The universe reconfirmed my capabilities when the darkness of a new moon night descended upon us, and Gar was really seasick. I knew in that instant when I took my watches and when I lay awake listening to him wretch and then the clinking of his tether that I had everything under control for myself and I could do it. My fear evaporated on my 4 am watch and was replaced with peace as I sat in darkness and listened to the ocean against the hull.
[OCSC]: Now that you’ve been out there, are there things that you look back on that you’re glad you learned on SF Bay? (or with ocsc?)
[Gar]: Definitely. Taking sailing courses from OCSC, as well as gearing up and sailing our own boat in the Bay was a perfect place to prepare for our voyage. It’s really a perfect place to learn to be a sailor. You have it all. Strong winds, tides, currents, a big protected bay to practice your skills, and the mighty Pacific Ocean is right out the gate. You also have to dodge big ships and are constantly around lots of different boats, which is all really helpful practice for a long voyage.
[Nicole]: Often when we get squalls on the ocean I think of hurricane gulch and the way the wind puffs down. Ditto on the rest.
[Gar]: Also, this is where I should plug all the great Bay Area folks who have helped us rig our boat and support us along the journey. Jason at Argo Yacht Rigging in Sausalito, Tom and Jessica List of List Marine in Sausalito, Marilee of Waypoints in Alameda, Tom Krase of CoverCraft in Richmond, Jeff Reid, Shipwright in Sausalito, and Michelle Dulac, the Varnish Queen of Sausalito, along with many other Bay Area folks who all have contributed to our success by teaching us new skills, giving advice, and supporting us with gear and supplies we have needed on the journey. And, of course, Max, Anthony, and all the other great OCSC people who have taught us so much too.
[OCSC]: What’s the best piece of advice you have for people considering following in your footsteps?
[Nicole]: If you dream about heading out into the big blue start making it happen. Make goals, make a time line and work towards it, set a date and go. There will always be more things to fix on the boat and more things to do and more money you might want that is why so many people are still tied to the dock. Out here we have met people making it happen on all types of boats with no experience to being a sailor their entire lives with little money to millions. If you want to make it happen make it happen. There will always be reasons you can’t but believe in the ones you can.
[Gar]: Like Nicole said, we have met so many different types of people out here doing what we are doing. It’s interesting to note that most of the smaller boats with tighter budgets seem to be Europeans and Kiwis. They just do it. Many of them are really inspiring as they don’t have very much but they still commit to the dream. Not sure why it is so different in the U.S., but maybe we just have so much more fear washed into our brains by our culture.
The cruising community is very diverse, but what we have in common is that we all set a day, untied the dock lines, and left all the rest behind. It’s so difficult to actually do, but if you commit to it and pull it off, your life will be changed forever, whether you do it for 6 months or the rest of your lives.
[OCSC]: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned while on your adventure?
[Gar]: More like “still learning”. Flexibility and Patience. Both of these virtues are absolutely essential with our choice of traveling on our boat. Things change constantly and you need to be able to roll with it. Weather doesn’t always cooperate and if you are smart, you’ll wait for it to improve before heading out. The boat also has a mind of its own and sometimes just decides to throw a fit and things fall apart. It’s important that you can relax, take the time to problem solve, and be flexible with your plans. If you are a very Type A person and trying to go a hundred miles an hour like most people do who live in the Bay area, then you will be a wreck. Obviously this has taken us time to learn and when we first left San Francisco this was how we were living too.
[Nicole]: Ditto on the above. Also to slow down. In the islands everything is much slower. People walk slowly, they take time to talk story with friends or strangers they see on the streets, they spend entire afternoons fishing or sipping kava, or weaving. The heat is a kind of sedative and the scent of flowers is often intoxicating but it is more than that. Slowing down has allowed us to meet people we never would have if we hadn’t taken the time to chat with old ladies outside of the post office in Aitutaki. We might not have noticed the 4 foot long grouper hiding among rocks. We definitely wouldn’t have had as spontaneous or fulfilling a journey and we would have missed a lot.
To be continued… (part 3 next week)
Follow Gar & Nicole Duke’s Adventure
Be sure to 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: http://www.svdreamkeeper.com And here is their blog: http://svdreamkeeper.blogspot.com/