Cruiser Interview: Sailing Music & Lyrics
Name(s): Lisa Pohovich
Boat Name: Music & Lyrics
Boat Type: Lagoon 440 catamaran with hybrid electric Solomon drives
Home Port: Hampton, VA
Current Location: Bahamas
How long have you been cruising?: Just 5 months!
How did you get started sailing?: Four years ago, Erik (my husband) and I were living an expensive life in Northern California. The amount of money we were blowing every month on rent and utilities was ridiculous and I thought to myself: how much would it cost to live in a different state? My company said it was fine for me to move to another state that we do business in, so we started thinking… Hawaii (even more expensive than Cali!), Washington/Oregon (too rainy), Colorado (too much snow), Georgia (too humid), so that just left the Mid-Atlantic States. We booked a trip to Virginia Beach and bought a house on the Chesapeake Bay, and bought the boat parked on the water in the backyard. We always knew that boat (a 37’ Sea Ray powerboat) was just a starter boat and one day it would grow up to be a sailboat.
That day happened last Memorial Weekend, after I came home from a work trip in Cali. I told Erik it was time to trade up for a sailboat. The plan was to keep the boat on our dock, but when a friend suggested we buy a Catamaran, move aboard full time (renting out our house), I was hooked.
By Labor Day, we had found our dream yacht, closed the deal, sailed her from Florida to Virginia, and moved aboard. At the end of October we started our way down the Atlantic, around Cape Hatteras (again), and staged in Florida for final modifications and a weather window to sail to the Bahamas. We’ve now been in the Bahamas since December 16.
What brought you here?: My bosses are very cool about this new lifestyle of mine. Very supportive! But at the same time, we agreed we need to try it out, make sure it works, and that I don’t disrupt my colleagues and business partners with technical issues working from sea. So this year, this season is limited to the Bahamas. The plan, if everything goes well, is to return to the States in June, do some additional refit work, and then after hurricane season, we will sail to the Caribbean and explore there. After that, who knows!
How long do you plan to continue cruising?: For now, we expect this to be our life. The minimalistic, nomadic lifestyle is so far really suiting us. We were a little worried (well I was at least) that moving from a 4200 square foot house (with a huge sun room that was my office) to living quarters that could fit into my home office would feel confining, but I’m happy to report that it doesn’t feel confining.
Part of this is because we chose a Lagoon 440 Catamaran owners version, with a spacious salon, large outdoor cockpit, and front cockpit, which means I can sit out in the cockpit and gaze out into the beauty that surrounds us. The other part is that we get off the boat as much as we can and go explore. Whether it’s a hike, snorkeling, or taking the folding bikes into town, we actually get out more now than we did when we were land-based!
What are your three favorite aspects of cruising?: Erik and I communicate better now – so that is #1 my favorite thing about living aboard and abroad! I love the ability to pull up the hook and sail even a short distance to change my scenery (which changes my attitude). And finally, the community of sailors – there is nothing like connecting with others who you already know you have a ton in common with to make you feel like you’ve just made new BFFs for life. Always willing to lend a hand or ear, and everyone is relaxed.
What are your three least favorite aspects of cruising?: Truth time here: I don’t particularly enjoy sailing yet. I know, I know – what??! Sailing scares me. I am not in control – I can’t control the weather, the waves, the wind, or how the boat responds. I can’t control my fear yet either. The only thing I can control is my voice, and speaking up if I feel the weather is not conducive to my peace of mind (or my nerves.) Night sailing to me is the worst of all – you can’t see anything unless you’re lucky to sail under clear skies with a moon, so I feel incredibly alone and a bit lost. This may have something to do with the fact that every sail we did once we left Virginia included overnight runs and almost without fail we’d have serious boat issues to address at 3am. Lastly, I don’t much care for the smell of the head. Or the fact that sometimes, waste mysteriously seeps back into the toilet. I’m also certain I share this disdain with every other sailor out there.
What are the most useful items on your boat?: *rubbing my hands with glee here* I could give a huge list of basic things you need that are useful, but there are a trove of resources out there that already do that. And while not considered basic, let me just say that we couldn't do this without our marriage saving headsets. No more screaming and getting angry. Now, we talk normally and there's no apologies needed afterward!
Instead, I’m going to talk about the non-essential things that are super useful to me personally.
First up is my UV Gel Polish manicure light. It’s small so it doesn’t take up a lot of room, and allows me the freedom to keep my gel manicure fresh every week. I honestly wouldn’t want to live without this. Second is our Jura Capresso Impressa Z5 espresso maker. It’s huge, but it keeps a sense of normalcy for us in an otherwise unpredictable living situation. My spices round out the #3 spot for me. An entire cabinet devoted to meat rubs, salts, and every type of spice, including curries, thai spices, Mexican spices, truffle oil, chili oil, avocado oil, EVOO. It allows me the creative freedom to turn an ordinary meal into a flavorful and satisfying one.
What misconceptions do people have about your lifestyle?: My friends and family likely think I’m either financially loaded or living a life of martini’s and bikini’s. Given the reality that boat life is doing repairs in exotic locations, let me clear up the fact that my bank account is almost gone. It’s a good thing I can’t touch any retirement money, or I’m sure that’d be gone too. And while I do wear bikinis more than I do anything else on the boat, it’s not life on P Diddy’s yacht. The stress (both physical and mental) can be overwhelming. The fear when weather experts get it wrong and you are presented with 30 knot winds and 6 foot seas make for a tense several hours. Being stuck on the boat for up to a week with nothing to do because the weather front is slamming you, making it impossible to launch the dinghy is not fun. But what makes this life so rewarding is the fact that you do have to overcome these obstacles – you have no choice. You can’t just pull to the side of the road and take a break. You have to work through everything that comes your way, as a team, and then when you are safely anchored, you take a deep breath, exhale fully, hug each other, and open a beer to celebrate another challenge was won!
What has been your most difficult obstacle?: My most difficult obstacle is my inner voice. This fear I have holds me back from fully enjoying this life. When the wind picks up (as it’s doing right now as I type, tossing the boat from side to side, swinging us at anchor, making me think the anchor is dragging), every unfounded and unlikely scenario goes through my mind and sometimes paralyzes me.
Over Christmas this past year, we were anchored off Rose Island (near Nassau), with a front on its way. Winds were predicted to sustain in the high 20s and gusts in the mid 30s. Rose was a good choice, until the winds shifted to the NE. That left us completely unprotected. Erik gave me the choice of riding it out for the 2 more days we had of that front, or moving to a marina in Nassau. I could not speak, literally. As I sat there basically curled up in fetal position, both figuratively and literally, Erik decided we’d stay put. The rationale was our 80 pound anchor and heavy chain had held us for the first 3 days of this front, and it might have been worse for me (and him) to move the boat through the heavy swell. In the end, it was the right decision – it pushed me past the fear that the anchor wouldn’t hold. From that experience, I have checked off overcoming anchoring fears (well somewhat, but I could write a whole chapter on the issues we’ve had with the anchor chain and windlass!)
Like everything else, I need more than one positive experience to outweigh a negative one I’ve had. I suspect that by the end of this cruising season, I will be so much more confident and proud of myself for doing what most people think is incredibly courageous.
What has been your most empowering moment?: There are too many to recount – from organizing the storage so I can find stuff, to helming, and everything in between. Rather than try to decide which one was the most empowering, I’ll just share a story that illustrates how I felt about an empowering moment.
When we first started looking at catamarans, I’d climb aboard with the help of Erik only of course. I couldn’t manage putting my foot into the step and hoisting myself up without Erik pushing my tush upward. I started looking at buying one of those step ladders and leaving that dockside, but a funny thing happened.
Some friends came over and easily boarded and I simply told myself I could do it. And guess what? I did.
I think the moral of this simple story is that I realized I don’t have to limit myself and force reliance on others to help me. In many cases and places as a live aboard, I can do for myself, and I do.
Of course, as a gentleman, Erik always wants to give me a hand, which is both charming and co-dependent. He’s learning too!
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started cruising?: Proper terminology. To this day, when anchoring, I tell Erik to go left or go right, but I’m getting better. Port is left yes? And those ropes are sheets right?
What advice do you have for people considering this lifestyle?: On the practical side, if you want to live on the hook, you really need to consider having enough solar or wind power and a watermaker will make your life so much better. Fresh water rinse after swimming is a necessity (at least for me). On the human side, you have to learn to live with your fears if you don’t overcome them quickly. And you have to learn to communicate very clearly and quickly with your partner. Do it before you board the boat, it’ll make the transition so much smoother.
How can we follow along?:
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-kRDQ5i9tkUtJ_gomHoV-A (although we haven’t posted yet – but when we do, it’ll be our own music.)
I’m also in the process of setting up a new podcast, called Sailing With Bikinis and Martinis - bringing humor through real talk with really candid women sailors about real life at sea. Sometimes it’s bikinis and martinis, but it’s funnier when it’s not.