On this rainy October morning in Annapolis, Maryland, a panel of accomplished offshore cruisers treated the 250-person crowd gathered in a steamy conference room to a lifetime of cruising knowledge learned on the water and in ports around the world.
Cruising World’s “Make Your Offshore Escape” seminar succeeded by avoiding the tragic pitfall that dooms so many experts panels: the tendency to overwhelm the audience with information, and, ultimately, discourage the enthusiasm that brought them to the discussion in the first place. Because the panelists-Beth Leonard, Alvah Simon, Liza Copeland, Suzanne Giesemann, and Peter Seymour-represented such a wide range of experiences and perspectives, the cruising life of which they spoke retained its luster of possibility and, most importantly, plausibility.
For instance, when asked what supplies were essential for a global circumnavigation, the panelists responded with wildly different answers. Giesemann ran down a comprehensive list of essentials, including a reliable engine, a radar, and an autopilot. To that list, Copeland added a watermaker, Leonard a set of navigation charts. Simon, who spent his first 14 years at sea cruising on a nonexistent budget in a 26-foot bamboo sailboat, enumerated a considerably shorter list. “When I started out, a sack of rice and a suit of good sails equaled freedom,” said Simon.
Fittingly, when later asked about his repairs budget, Simon responded, “I found I could make all my repairs with a machete and a paint brush.”
While Simon’s stripped-down approach to offshore cruising may not be the preferred method for all sailors, his can-do attitude underscored the basic message of the seminar: go for it!
Cruising World editors John Burnham and Elaine Lembo moderated the initial discussion then opened the floor for questions from the audience. One man asked whether to use solar panels or a diesel generator to power his electrical system, another asked about SSB radios versus satellite telephones, while another asked about what type of firearms to carry onboard.
The women in the audience were concerned with more social issues, such as, “Can I barter for goods and services while I’m out cruising?” “What advice can you give for bringing children along?” and “What do I tell my family to convince them that sailing around the world is a good idea?”
When the seminar ended after two hours, there will still several eager hands waving questions for the experts. The audience left the conference room murmuring of boat upgrades and future itineraries, carrying with them a winter’s worth of cruising reveries.