Gilstrap got up and turned on her computer, intending to distract herself until she could fall back asleep. Instead, she created a website.
Intended for cruisers who are dreaming about or planning to set sail, The Interview With a Cruiser Project launched in late March and is based on an engagingly simple premise: Gilstrap interviews cruisers about their experiences and posts a fresh interview each Monday.
Interviews consist of 10 questions and answers, with topics ranging from cruising etiquette to gear, from boat selection criteria to what a typical day at anchor is like. Gilstrap, who lives aboard with her husband in Victoria, B.C., asks readers to submit questions they’d like her to ask, which have ranged from the practical (what are you most afraid of while cruising?) to the personal (how does cruising affect your personal relationship?).
So far, the site has three interviews with cruisers of vastly differing experience. One couple embarked on a four-year circumnavigation of the tradewinds after just eight hours of sailing lessons. Another couple, one of them a sailing instructor and charter captain, cruised for four years through the Pacific Northwest and the South Seas, and the third interviewees, a family of three, have been cruising for five years.
The site seem to be resonating with cruisers, Gilstrap says. “Feedback has been really positive,” she says. “I’m getting a lot of email from people who are really excited about it.”
Gilstrap says the site isn’t intended as an instructional guide, but a place for readers to get a sense of what long-term cruising is like through firsthand accounts.
“I’ve asked interviewees to just speak from their own experiences,” she says. “These are people who fumbled their way out there and are doing it, and this is what they’re seeing and experiencing.”
Gilstrap’s only stipulation for interviewees is that they be cruisers who have been traveling outside of their home countries for more than two years. She set two years as the minimum, she says, because cruisers going out that long must prepare differently and have different considerations than those cruising for shorter periods.
Likewise, she says, cruising in foreign countries can be much different from cruising in waters where the laws, customs and geography are more familiar. And since Gilstrap and her husband have their own long-distance cruising aspirations, accounts of sailing in foreign waters intrigue her.
“Some of it is just motivated by our dream, which I think is a pretty common one,” she says. “A lot of people just want to take off and get out of Dodge. I think that’s probably the more common dream, although in reality there are probably more people cruising full-time in their own countries than outside them.”
Gilstrap, who grew up in Lynnwood, Wash., was a psychology professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs when she met her husband, Carol Dupuis, a Canadian helicopter pilot and experienced sailor. Gilstrap had never set foot on a sailboat when they met, but it wasn’t long before his cruising dream became hers as well.
“He likes to say that he has to be careful what he says in front of me,” she says. “He’ll talk about something that he’s maybe thinking about doing someday, and then I’ll have an action plan and it’ll also be a bigger plan and a much more ambitious plan when I’m done with it.”
Gilstrap and Dupuis, who are both 36, plan to set out from their homeport of Victoria June 15 on their 1983, 35-foot Wauquiez Pretorien, Estrellita 5.10b. (The 5.10b refers to the grade, or steepness, of a climb they did in Mexico, where Dupuis proposed to his future wife). They’ll spend a year or so sailing around the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Gulf and San Juan islands and Puget Sound, then head south.
Gilstrap intends to keep the website going while they’re cruising by doing interviews when they’re in port and banking a month or two of interviews at a time so there’s no break while she’s offline. She’s also chronicling their pre-cruise preparations and trip on her blog.
As for exactly where the couple will cruise and for how long, they’re not sure. Gilstrap is not ruling out a circumnavigation and says the trip will last as long as it’s fun, which she defines on her blog as “at least 80%-20% on the fun-to-suck ratio with an ideal fun-to-suck ratio of 90%-10%.
“We don’t have an end point. It could be that we get to Mexico and decide that’s enough,” Gilstrap says. “Or maybe it’ll be 10 or 20 years later and then we’ll decide it’s enough.”