Voyaging Skills

Ocean Navigator|Ocean Voyager 2020

Voyaging Skills
Two sailors with a thirst for voyaging

Jon and Sue Hacking live aboard their Wauquiez Kronos 45 catamaran Ocelot. Sue is from rural Pennsylvania and had her first sailing adventure in the Eastern Caribbean when she was 13 years old.

Jon was born in England to British/African parents who moved to the U.S. when he was 2 years old. He grew up in northern California, got a degree in electrical engineering/computer science, and followed the family tradition of traveling. Jon met Sue in 1975 when he had just returned from a year in Africa and she had returned from three months in the Himalayas. They married in 1979 and took off on an extended one-year honeymoon to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Nepal and greater Southern Africa. They stumbled upon a sailing opportunity in Cape Town, and signed onto a steel Roberts 53 for a three-month voyage from Cape Town to the Caribbean.

After they arrived in St. Lucia, they bought Oriental Lady, a 40-foot Piver AA trimaran, and went voyaging. Sue and Jon sailed the Eastern Caribbean for six years, including two after their son was born in Martinique. They returned to San Diego in 1988, where they sold the boat on the same day they learned they had a baby girl on the way.

For 12 years they lived in Redmond, Wash., before buying their Wauquiez Kronos catamaran to go voyaging again in December 2001. They sailed to Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, crossed the Indian Ocean via Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Chagos (the last three-month permit), Seychelles, Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa.

Sue and Jon sailed back across the Indian Ocean to Malaysia in 2009. In the intervening years, they have done a two-and-a-halfyear refit in Phuket, trekked in Himalayan Nepal three times, sailed to India and back, circumnavigated Indonesia three times, joined rallies in Borneo and Indonesia, and have voyaged east to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Ocelot and her intrepid crew of two are now in the Philippines.

Their website (1,000plus pages, and NOT a blog) is at svOcelot.com or HackingFamily.com.

OV: What are the top skills voyagers need to know?

J&SH: Reading weather, both the weather charts (usually gribs out here) and the sky. We’re very weather driven, and we try hard to minimize weather problems on passage, from initial planning to dodging squalls and other weather systems that materialize.

Understanding the basic workings of your boat, from sail handling to engines, is critical. Basic seamanship — especially navigation — is essential. It’s important for both partners (assuming couple-only cruising) to be able to handle all facets of sailing your boat. If one person becomes incapacitated, their life is in the other’s hands.

Standing watch, really watching, both day and night is still a crucial skill. Know what to look for: squalls, squall lines, rips, ships, fishing boats, fishing nets, fish traps and FADs. We’ve known boats with plenty of watch standers, but they were all down below watching a movie when the boat went up on a reef and was lost. We’ve also known boats that were lost because the crew depended too much on their electronic charts, and the boat went up on a reef and was lost.

Understanding lights on ships and tugs with tows, and knowing how to use the radar when those ships don’t have AIS. Sailing at night can be confusing when other boats are around, especially inshore with background lights.

OV: What is your planning routine prior to a voyage?

J&SH: Mostly it involves weather. Our first consideration is the season, as we much prefer to go with (or across) the wind. We use Pilot Charts and cruising guides for this.

Where will we be at the change of season? Will we return, anchor up for months, cruise locally, haul out or put the boat in a marina and travel ashore?

Having figured out the “big scene,” we go into more detail: Where will we stop along the way? What can we learn about the anchorages? What do we want to see and/or do? We peruse the cruising guides, travel guides, blogs and websites. When possible, we talk to other cruisers who have been this route.

We have also found that it’s quite enjoyable to cruise with like-minded cruisers, so sometimes we’ll put a plan together and then see if others want to accompany us. This worked very well for our 2019 trip over the top of Papua New Guinea and into the Solomon Islands, where all four boats in our flotilla needed help from the other boats at times.

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Ocean Voyager 2020