Welcome Aboard Feel Free


By Tom Morkin

Keci Burcu, Southwest Turkey

Feel Free now lies some 50 meters off a Byzantine citadel, perched on a tiny island in the olive-tree-lined bay of Keci Burcu in Southwest Turkey, about four miles north of the Greek island of Simi. The last couple of days Liz and I have

Feel Free at anchor in Thailand.
been to-ing and fro-ing between Turkey and Greece. Many of the lovely small Greek islands of the southern Aegean are so easily accessible from Turkey that it’s common practice for yachts stationed in Turkey to nip into one of these islands to stock up on the much cheaper wine and fuel, and soak up a bit of the Greek ambiance. Given the supposed level of friction between these countries, the border is a very relaxed one. Liz and I don’t normally take chances, but given the level of nonchalance demonstrated by our fellow cruisers, we couldn't resist.

We left last night's anchorage where we were treated to a first-class thunder-and-lightning show because the nice lady on the Greek VHF weather channel promised a gale later today or tonight. Two hours, and about three gallons

Liz and Tom.
of diesel later, we entered this gorgeous, bulletproof, tree-lined bay (something of a rarity in these parts) and now lie peacefully beneath the remains of a 1,700-year-old fort. The sequel to last night's pyrotechnics display is just now starting in the newly formed mass of monster-like cumulo-nimbus clouds off to the northwest. But, it's okay with us; in fact, we're feeling pretty snug in our new almost land-locked basin. In fact, this “hunkering down time” is just what we need, to catch up with boat chores, and start writing to you. So let us begin.

It was April, 1985, at the ripe old ages of 34 and 36, when we slipped the lines from our mooring in Vancouver, British Columbia, for an18-month cruise around the Pacific. Whoever would’ve thought that we'd still be cruising in our 50s -- 22 years later? Our families were surprisingly supportive, even though we were quitting very good jobs, heading off into (to them) a scary unknown,

We became hooked on cruising, and on our encounters with the wide world of new experiences and new cultures.
and were at the age when we should have been thinking about settling down and having kids. Still, they encouraged us to "Go for it."

We both had commitments from our corporate employers, 3M (Tom) and Prentice Hall (Liz), to take us back 18 months later, so the plan was to do the loop from Vancouver to Mexico to the Marquesas to Hawaii, and then back to Vancouver. We just missed that starboard turn out of the Marquesas for Hawaii. Instead, we headed for Pago Pago, American Samoa.

It was in Samoa that we realized we might be able to extend our cruising lifestyle because we could actually get people to give us money in return for work without going back to Canada. This was a great revelation. It meant we would be doing our cruising on the installment plan and with the hindsight of 22 years we wouldn't have it any other way.

Liz sewing sails. We found we could live self sufficiently and simply aboard our boat, and we loved the feeling of independence.
In point of fact, 11 of the 22 years have been spent working (teaching, chartering, and sales, in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Canada). So, our 18-month trip morphed into nine years that took us through the "Coconut Milk Run" to Australia, then up to Japan via Papua New Guinea and Micronesia.

Resettling in Canada didn't last long, and in 1996, two years after arriving back, we were off again, this time with a bigger boat, down the west coast of California and Mexico, Hawaii, Marshall Islands, and on to Australia a second time, then Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and this past year across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean to Turkey, where we now lie at anchor.

Hoki Mai, our first boat, in 1985.
As new BoatUS writers, we hope to paint a picture for you of the ups and downs, the simplicity and the complications of our daily lives aboard Feel Free as we cruise through the Mediterranean. It’s our hope that by sharing our experiences, we can answer some of the questions you may have about this cruising lifestyle. Some questions that we often get are:

"How can you afford to do it for so long?"

"How long do you plan to continue cruising?

"Do you have an exit strategy?"

"What do you want do next?

"What are some of the main problems you’ve encountered -- interpersonal, technical, weather, bureaucratic, health,


"How can you continue to get along in so small a space?”

"What is it about this lifestyle that has seduced you for such a long time?"

"What are the disadvantages?"

Yes, I do sometimes make my own beer onboard.
As we go along, we'll try to cover these, and other less-weighty questions such as how to make beer onboard for less than 15 cents a bottle with a 5-gallon bucket, 2 garbage bags, and some simple ingredients; how to live without refrigeration (we did for about 20 years); how to provision for long stays away from grocery stores; live without a watermaker; and share time-proven recipes; as well as some clever ideas gleaned from other cruisers that make the cruising life so much safer, easier, and more comfortable.

Liz with new young friends in Indonesia.
Liz and I have never been accused of being on the cutting edge of the most sophisticated marine technology, so you won't find us discussing the merits of the latest techno gadget. Feel Free is not a showcase of the latest and greatest boat gear.

But we're not exactly ascetics either. We use a laptop and GPS for navigation. The fridge, freezer, single sideband radio, solar panels, 2.5 kva diesel genset, and even an iPod all make life comfortable.

In Aden, we often encountered men resting together during the heat of the day – dressed colorfully, and shooting the breeze.
Mechanical whiz kid, I’m definitely not. In fact, I can't forget how I almost failed grade 9 industrial arts many years ago. Fixing things doesn't come naturally to me. When I was age 5, my mom noticed I was good at taking things apart, but not so hot at putting them back together. Well, I haven't changed that much. I'm not the first guy in the anchorage people turn to with their boat problems. On the other hand, we’ve managed to maintain two boats, and spent remarkably little money paying other people to solve our boat problems. Somehow, with the help of fellow cruisers, manuals, trial and lots of errors, and motivation, we manage to stay afloat.

Feel Free sailing up the Red Sea.
We could be viewed as poster children for the mechanically/technically challenged. If we can keep a couple of boats seaworthy long enough to sail over 50,000 miles and visit 30 countries, then maybe just about anyone can.

Liz and I are strong adherents of the “keep it simple” principle and believe that at least part of being a successful long-term cruisers involves lowering your pleasure threshold (first observed by famed circumnavigators Bob and Nancy Griffith in their inspiring book Blue Water Sailing). Most cruisers can't bring all the amenities from home, so we have to be happy without them. In sailing and in life, they who are happy with less, win.

Tom catches a Queen fish while we’re at sea.

Ashore, in Isreal, we have fun with cruising friends in a natural mud bath.

Liz with Orangutan in Borneo.

Elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka.