We Can Work Later

Young couples breathe new life into some older production boats to pull off their dreams of voyaging.

Young Cruisers

Ydine Sandberg and Steve Walicki, each in their late 20s, set careers aside to sail across the South Pacific aboard a 30-foot Rawson.Patrick Childress

Younger, 30-ish couples are crossing oceans at a fraction of the cost generally paid by cruisers who are older and retired. And these younger couples are doing it at an age when inquisitiveness and physical capacities aren’t necessarily compromised. “We can always go back to work when we’re too old to do anything else!” seems to be a common attitude they express.

What can be more economical than to set sail with a boat owner and then have him leave on open-ended business? With the owner's departure, 27-year-old Steve Walicki sailed Pomokai, a 30-foot Rawson built in 1967, from Santa Barbara, California, to Hawai'i. Steve wasn't sailing away with much. Including $5,000 in new rigging and upgrades, the owner couldn't have had much more than $25,000 invested in the boat. The Rawson 30 is a stout boat and a proven circumnavigator, and although Pomokai is lacking in comforts and cosmetics, it's mechanically up to the challenge
of passagemaking.

On Pomokai, Steve backpacks across oceans. The head became a storage closet, but the bucket in the cockpit has a better view than many forest campsites. The stove is a one-burner apparatus sitting atop the rusty gimbaled stove. Navigation is tracked with a simple chart plotter. One refinement that the owner couldn't do without is an 18-inch, flat-screen DVD player and a fine stereo system. An incredibly old yet functional Monitor self-steering vane stands out like chrome artwork on the stern.

In Hawai’i, Steve met the lovely, 28-year-old Ydine Sandberg. When someone mentioned to Steve that aboard a boat you need amenities to keep a woman happy, he replied, “I think it’s much better to find the right woman.”

Ydine was certainly the right woman, and she was ready for a South Pacific adventure. Ydine resigned from her position as a speech therapist and joined Pomokai on the trip across the ocean. They believe that some day they'll resume a land-based life. "I know that I can always return to a career in industrial technology and product design," Steve says.

Graham Hopkins, 30, and Susan Schweinsberg, 34, were frustrated when they kayaked down the Golfo de California, off Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. In that desert atmosphere, all their supplies had to be carried on the kayaks, and this limited their range of exploration. “Then we saw all those cruising sailboats at anchor with their large capacities and ranges,” Sue says. “That certainly made sense to us.”

With strong rock-climbing and general outdoors backgrounds, Graham and Sue were prepared for the rigors of sailing, of which, however, they knew nothing. They asked a lot of questions of those who already had voyaging experience.

In August 2007, in Miami, Florida, they purchased a neglected Creekmore 34. They paid $21,000 for Chandrika, half the asking price.

During the survey, they were shoulder to shoulder with the surveyor, who was an eager educator about boat construction. “He showed us the strong, solid-glass hull, full keel, redundant rigging, and thick decks as well as all the work that needed to be accomplished to get the boat sailing again,” says Graham.

The renovations totaled $26,400. The largest portion went toward installing the new diesel engine. Graham and Sue hired a mechanic to coach them periodically as they removed the old motor and installed the new power plant, drivetrain, and exhaust system. New sails and rigging were the next largest expense.

In appearance, Chandrika can be likened to a large kayak with a lid. There's an icebox that never sees ice. The head is now a storage closet. They take sun showers in the cockpit. On top of the old gimbaled galley stove is an inexpensive two-burner propane stove. Cosmetically, Chandrika is what one might describe as somewhat "challenged," but the boat is very functional.

After transiting the Panama Canal, Graham and Sue realized that hand-steering for hour after hour wouldn't be an option in the wide expanses of the Pacific. They had a Monitor self-steering vane shipped to Panama. "It's the best addition that we've made to Chandrika," they said.

They keep navigation simple by using a handheld GPS and paper charts. They carry a VHF and all U.S. Coast Guard-required equipment, but not much else. With the idea of keeping it simple and cost-efficient, the dinghy has no engine, yet is small and easy to row long distances. Keeping their operating costs low is a priority so they can continue sailing into the foreseeable future.

When their sailing days are complete, the crew of Chandrika can fall back on their college degrees and Sue's doctorate in microbiology.

Sense of Adventure
The 36-foot Pearson ketch Dosia "happened to show up in a boatyard the day I was looking, and the price was right," says Drew Sorrell, who plunked down $30,000 for the project boat. Having a good-looking, completely renovated yacht seemed the most prudent approach before setting off to sea. Drew personally completed the major outfitting. "It's almost a new boat," he says. Without counting personal time, the materials and other expenses tagged in at around $70,000 to complete the renovation.

Although Dosia has an autopilot, it doesn't have a self-steering vane. A powerful electric windlass is on the foredeck. The nav station contains VHF, SSB, and an Iridium telephone. Chart plotting is done on a laptop computer connected to a handheld GPS. The galley has a low-capacity watermaker, propane stove, and refrigeration but no freezer.

Before setting sail on Dosia, Drew took sailing classes in college, sailed in small boats around the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina, and made a bluewater crossing on a friend's boat from Charleston to Bermuda.

In January 2006, as Dosia winged its way out of Charleston for the Virgin Islands, there was a woman on board. But even nice boats can be unsuitable for demanding attitudes. In September 2008, in French Polynesia's Marquesas Islands, Drew's friend Margie Kopp flew in to join him to sail among the many islands and cultures of which seasoned cruisers continue to dream.

Till that moment, Margie had never been on a sailboat. Having the right sense of adventure, 27-year-old Margie is now a Pacific Ocean crosser. To help ease the slide into a cruising lifestyle in remote locations, Drew made sure that Margie had good email communications with friends and family through the Iridium phone or, as a backup, the single-sideband Pactor modem they carry.

Drew and Margie sold Dosia in Australia and have now established themselves in careers in the United States. One day, when they return to the cruising life, their family size will determine how large their next boat will be. That boat won't be a project boat.

“My time is better spent working at a profession so I can earn the money to buy a used boat that someone else has upgraded and is now selling at a discount,” Drew figures.

Patrick Childress and his wife, Rebecca, are sailing in the South Pacific on their 40-foot Valiant 40, Brick House_._