Harley Earl and his wife, Jennifer, have a long relationship with OCSC; Harley has been on the instructor faculty since 2000, and he and Jennifer met on the docks of OCSC back in 2002. In 2004 they sailed out the Gate on their Hans Christian 41 to spend a couple of years exploring the South Pacific and wound up completing a circumnavigation 24 months later. Late last year they launched Manu Kai Ocean Adventures on their new boat, Kailani. We caught up with Harley last week in Sausalito.
OCSC: You two have quite the story: met here at OCSC, got married, sailed around he world, came back…why did you come back? It must have been a great time.
H: It was. Actually we never planned on being gone for more than two years. We wanted to see what it was like out there, come back and, if it was something we wanted to do more of, figure out how to make it happen. And of course, there was the need to raise up crew.
OCSC: Your daughter?
H: Right, Sophie. She just turned three so she is a couple of years away from standing a watch but we’ll appreciate the help. Three hours on and three hours off for days on end can get old.
OCSC: Tell us about the new boat, Kailani.
H: Ever since we came back we have been looking for the next cruising boat. We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted in one in terms of layout, sailing characteristics, safety, comfort, etc. and came up with the Deerfoot series of boats designed by Steve Dashew. There are only a handful of the hulls around on the market at any one time. We looked at a few and then found Kailani last summer in of all places, Turkey.
OCSC: You recently started up a program offering the opportunity for sailors and non-sailors to make long offshore passages under the guidance of you and other professional sailors. Where did the idea for Manu Kai Ocean Adventures come from?
H: I love to teach and to learn and the concept of teaching sailing in the context of passage making is something that I’ve always wanted try. It wasn’t until Kailani came along, however, that it made sense. She is an ideal teaching platform, she’s fast, safe and comfortable. She is complicated enough to challenge even the most experienced sailors and simple enough that complete novices can quickly become competent crew. While our long term plan is to cruise full time as a family, that isn’t going to happen for a few years yet. In the meantime, though, we have plans to spend a few months here and there, and moving Kailani between those locations gives us a platform for the Ocean Adventures program.
OCSC: It’s interesting that you accept people with all levels of sailing experience. How does that work out on board?
H: So far it’s been great. Long distance open ocean passage making has a way of testing the limits of all sailors regardless of experience while at the same time offering an indescribable adventure for those who may not have spent much time on boats at all. Our mentoring philosophy is that, safety issues aside, we give participants as much or as little guidance as they want. Everyone shares in the basics like watch keeping, cooking and cleaning on a rotating schedule, and those who are more experienced can find themselves as a de facto skipper for a time.
OCSC: You are not the only one aboard with OCSC connections. How did you all get together for this?
H: We are very fortunate to have a couple of great sailors and teachers aboard in Tom Prior and Sean McAllister, both of whom are on the instructor faculty at OCSC. Tom has been with the boat since we left Turkey last fall and Sean joined up on the Atlantic crossing. Tom is the consummate ocean sailor with a lot of practical offshore experience, and although most of Sean’s sea time is in coastal waters, his sailing knowledge and passion are great qualities to have aboard. Both of them are excellent teachers and with the constant exposure crew members get to these guys over days at sea it is almost impossible for them to come away without having markedly improved their knowledge base and skill sets. And besides, they are a lot of fun, easy to be around and just good guys.
OCSC: Say if I’m a sailor already with maybe the idea that I would someday like to go cruising, what do I get from this? Is there a formal certification that I can achieve?
H: We don’t offer a formal certification, but if cruising or passage making is your eventual goal, what you will get is a detailed evaluation of your skills and you’ll know what you’ll need to work on. You’ll also get documentation of your sea time that can be used toward the requirements for your USCG license. The most important takeaway from your experience, however, will be a feeling of confidence in your abilities that you will be able to fall back on when you decide to do it yourself. Oh, and a nice T-shirt, too.
OCSC: One more question: while you’re out there having fun, what does Jennifer get out of it?
H: Well, she doesn’t get out of the work part. She does our weather routing, keeps friends and family up to date on our progress and does our advance work before arrival. On the other hand she does get to sleep the night through in a motionless bed which is a pretty fair tradeoff.
OCSC: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. We’’ll be following Kailani on her passages and hope we’ll get to see her when she passes through the Bay area.
H: You can count on it.