Click on the highlighted link below and see our YOUTUBE Videos. or click on the picture below to view the complete Surf and Turf Galapagos series.
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The Ocean is a women CD by Travis Burke of Mystery Tramp.
Check out Travis’s place in Costa Rica!
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Oh and check out our friends at Macaw Tours in Tapachula Mexico. Jan and I toured with them into Guatemala.Great fun and Arturo looked after us quite well.
Senior Living Magazine Interview. ANDREW AND JANET GUNSON: CRUISERS by Barry Low due for October 2012 issue.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
There’s a global community — an international kinship of seafaring adventurers who harness the winds of the oceans — they are the sail-cruisers. Andrew and Janet Gunson have earned their place in this fusion of unique voyagers.
In 2001, Andrew, Janet and their two children Melissa 10 and Thomas 14 cast off their Mission, BC moorings amidst the cheers of well-wishers. Upon reaching the open Pacific, Skipper Andrew Gunson set a southerly course. Then, signaled by the brusque Crack! of unfurled sails, Andrew commanded the helm of the sailing vessel Maiatla II as she charged forward, diving head-on into the white-capped blue waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Her journey’s destination, the warm water currents of the Cortez Sea. The Maiatla II (pronounced My-at-la) meaning “friend”, will be home to the Gunson family for the next fourteen months; a home where wind fills the sails; sea spray fills the air. This is the worldwide community of sail-cruisers: exploring — dreaming — discovering.
Over the past twelve years, their land-based residences have been in Mission, BC, and more recently, the mid-Vancouver Island district of Ladysmith.
“We sold almost everything we owned and the Maiatla II became our new home,” said the Gunsons.
Andrew, Janet and their two children embarked on their first extended open-ocean cruise aboard the Maiatla II, a 55’, 20-ton sleek sailing vessel. Maiatla II is fitted with a water desalination system, freezer, marine cooking appliances, full galley, bathroom facilities with a hot water shower, multi-sleeping accommodation, and high-tech navigation equipment including autopilot, and lots of headroom.
The Gunsons sailed south along the rugged dangerous coastlines of Washington, Oregon, and California as much as one hundred miles offshore for safety, navigating past the Baja Peninsula into the warm currents of the Sea of Cortes. Andrew authored a book about this adventure, The Voyage of the Maiatla with the Naked Canadian. The naked Canadian gets naked indeed, but who is it?
Janet “homeschooled” the children during this time away…aboard Maiatla. There were times of having to choose schooling over snorkelling and beachcombing. Janet says her students were excellent. When Melissa and Thomas integrated back into the school system in 2002, they were advanced in their studies and maturity; Thomas said he felt different, not better, but different from his schoolmates.
Cooking, cleaning, and the always-necessary laundry are well within the Gunson’s cruiser lifestyle.
“We learned of a well about a mile from shore,” said Andrew, “where the locals come for their water. It had been weeks since doing the last wash; clothing, towels, bedding, everything piled high. We moored just off shore in the Sea of Cortez and loaded up the Zodiac. When we set foot on the beach we went hunting for the well.”
“We found it and a discarded road sign, which became the laundry table,” said Janet.
“Melissa and Thomas filled coolers and buckets with water,” said Janet. “I cranked the hand powered washing machine in the mid-morning 110 degree temperature.”
The kids hauled bucket after bucket of water and I’m cranking the handle,” said Janet. “When we got back to the Maiatla, we strung it up to dry bow to stern, every available wire, the entire length of the boat covered with hanging laundry.
What does it take to be a cruiser? Andrew and Janet have been married for 28 years. Andrew has been sailing all his life having gained his highly skilled experience from the instruction of his father.
“We met in 1981 and were married in 1984,” said Andrew smiling. “On our second date I took Janet sailing on English Bay in Vancouver on my 36’ sailboat.”
“I had no experience sailing whatsoever,” said Janet reflecting back. “It was beautiful, cold, snow on the mountains of North Vancouver.”
“We weren’t out long. We had only just met a few days prior,” Andrew said.
“He was trying me out,” laughed Janet, adding, “and probably trying to impress me too.”
Their second Pacific journey crossed to the Hawaiian Islands in 2007. Andrew wrote his second book titled, The Tahiti Syndrome Hawaiian Style: a Naked Canadian Adventure.
Andrew said that cruising is broken up into thirds: one third boredom, one third sheer pleasure, and one third sheer terror and that there have been times when he has asked himself, What am I doing here? Oh-h crap! Such an incident occurred in 2007 but Andrew was too busy to ask himself the question, What am I doing here?
“I broke my main boom when we were returning from Hawaii in 2007, 1,200 miles out from shore. We were under gale force winds.” (The National Hurricane Centre defines gale force winds as being between 61 K/mh and 117 K/mh). “We had a wave come up behind us at two o’clock in the morning causing the boat to broach. We were running dead downwind so my boom was all the way out. When the wave came up behind us, the stern lifted and the boat started to surf. It can be quite exciting when you’re surfing 20 tons of boat down the face of a 30 foot wave in the pitch-dark. You can hear waves roaring like express trains approaching from behind you,” says Andrew.
Andrew explained that while he was sitting at the wheel, the boat continued surfing this monster wave and the automatic pilot that was steering at the time, lost control of the boat — which turned — broad siding the wave.
The Maiatla II rolled to port as the wind from the opposite side filled the boom sail shooting it back across the deck to the other side. It hit the wire stays with such force that it snapped the boom. The 55-foot sailboat shook. Andrew said he ducked behind the control panel in the wheelhouse thinking the mast was coming down (fortunately, it didn’t). He managed to straighten the boat’s course and yelled for the crew to come on deck to help deal with the broken boom. The autopilot resumed operation.
“It was one of those moments when something does happen,” Andrew said. “What cruisers are good at is the ability to act in times of stress. It’s okay to freak out after the event but while it’s occurring you can’t afford to. You can’t call BCAA while you’re out there. You have to deal with it. Part of what cruisers do is to envision every possibility of what might go wrong; what action to take if a boom or mast breaks or a wave punches in a side window leaving a hole four feet by two feet with bigger waves wanting to wash in the gap.”
Andrew continued stressing the point of being ready for but not worrying about incidences large or small.
“Because if you do worry about all these things that could go wrong,” he said, “it will drive you nuts and you’d never leave the dock.”
“We’ve been cruising now for over 30 years,” says Andrew. “We’ve met couples who are older than that; couples in their 50s, 60s, 70s and who are out there cruising. The amazing part being that when we get together over a glass of wine, talking about where we’ve been and what we’ve done; there they are, chatting casually about handling their boat, reefing sails during storms and hurricanes, losing masts as if it’s an everyday occurrence for them,” said Andrew speaking admiringly.
He says that self-sufficiency is a primary characteristic of cruisers.
“Having the ability to ‘wing-it’ is definitely to your advantage. You have to be self-sufficient and you have to be a person who wants to be self-sufficient; who enjoys the joy of challenge.” Andrew reinforced the importance of being self-reliant by citing the adage that the difference between adventure and hardship is simply attitude. “It’s how you perceive things,” said Andrew.
“They [the 50+ age couples] are voyagers, talking about the seriousness of coming through a hurricane at sea as if they’ve just had a bad encounter in a mall parking lot. They seem to relish at taking on adversity,” he said.
“Things in life get missed, merged together,” said Andrew. “Everything I write about in my books is real. Real people, real places, real times. Look at life as an adventure. Before you know, ten years has gone by. You missed your life.”
Janet described their life philosophy as, “Evolving as a result of the voyages and what we’ve done and what we’ve experienced. Cruising is about the voyage, not the destination.”
“Up until our 2007 Hawaiian excursion, Jan and I traveled with our children and since we lived full time on Maiatla, no matter where we were, we were home. We really missed Thomas on the Hawaiian trip,” said Andrew.
“Making my family a priority is the reason Jan and I are still together,” Andrew said. “My job as a quality control manager working on northern Alberta construction projects takes me away from my wife and children but they always remain number one in my life.”
Andrew continued, “I have a large and social family which get together at every opportunity, usually at my brother’s house in Aldergrove. There’s twenty-five in our inner circle. Long weekends, holidays, birthdays, of which there are many, are all an excuse for us to get together. So it tore at us to leave them.”
“Cruisers are part of our other big family,” says Andrew. “We socialize often. There are times when we pull into a marina and another cruiser will come up beside us in their dinghy and say they just caught fresh fish, will we come to a deck barbeque aboard their boat that evening.”
“It’s the people. It’s the place and the getting together. It’s the way we are. It’s the living,” said Janet
Andrew and Janet Gunson continue befriending an enormous multiplicity of sail-cruisers living fascinating lifestyles.
“No matter who they are and you might not know them from Adam; we’ve all got something in common,” he said …cruising.”
Andrew told of a humorous occasion while anchored off La Paz when an internationally well-known physicist/cruiser came over from his boat to assist Andrew in making a repair on the Maiatla. Andrew called out for the physicist’s help at a crucial point. The physicist had abandoned Andrew and was now helping Andrew’s son, Thomas, with his homeschooling grade nine math.
“While sailing we were constantly meeting new people,” said Andrew, “many we would develop deep and lasting relationships with, which filled the voids that our shore side friends had left. That’s not to say that we didn’t miss them all the same. As our boat has always been the springboard for all of our recreational activities, we did more, not less by leaving. So aside from the other part of my family, we missed virtually nothing by sailing off.”
The Gunsons have a third voyage planned — sailing down the West Coast towards Mexico then possibly visiting Costa Rica via the Panama Canal. The departure date was July 7, 2012, but without warning, their leave-taking from Ladysmith was delayed.
“Just when you think that you have it all figured out, somebody changes the rules,” Andrew says. “We were one day away from departing when a tiny nut from the air intake rattled loose and got sucked into the engine. It looks like God, fate, and those little gremlins that live in Maiatla’s bilge have all conspired to sabotage our departure for Mexico this month [July].
“Jan and I are disappointed, but that’s cruising.”
Andrew and Janet, accompanied by their usual optimistic cruiser attitude add, “At least this will give us some more time to work on the new book.”
Andrew is due back at work in Alberta by mid-August; however, not to be deterred, the Gunsons are now reviving plans for a late September start on their journey.
When Maiatla II sails in September, Andrew will be keeping a sharp lookout for something of an unusually dangerous hazard for motor and sail-cruisers — large masses of debris from Japan’s tragic tsunami.
“Some of the pieces that have been observed offshore,” he said, “are large enough to sink us when we’re travelling at a higher speed.”
“Every journey has two stories. One is over the face of the earth; the other is through the time of the soul. Let your accounts chronicle both stories” – BCA website