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Making The Money Go Round

When telling people about our voyages on Mithril there is one question that we are ALWAYS asked - "what do you live on?" It is sometimes posed as "I'd love to do that but I can't afford it." If I'd a pound for every time I've heard that I'd never have to bin hoke again.

Our families, when asked the same question jokingly reply "fresh air and fish" which isn't actually so far from the truth. When we decided to sell up and sail we consciously left our old consumerist lifestyle behind. We now never go to bars or restaurants, in 11 years I haven't been to the cinema or a show. All my clothes are second hand and I haven't bought a magazine in over a decade. But don't feel sorry for us, the best bits of most places are free anyway.

We've seen whales at less than a boat length away. I've been so close to dolphins that their breath has misted up my glasses. From my own living room I've watched a volcano erupting. I've had my toes nibbled by small coral reef fish. We've even had monkeys throw coconuts at us - a dubious pleasure. I've eaten bananas and mangoes straight from the tree and lobster and tuna straight from the sea. I've climbed Table mountain, visited Ayers Rock and seen the sites of ancient Greece.

To fund this lifestyle we have some savings which have been supplemented by what are best described as schemes. After building a 50 foot steel boat from scratch we can do any sort of yacht work. We've invented, produced and sold electronic gadgets, repaired sails and made flags. In Australia we prospected for gold. In Gran Canaria we built a large set of stairs for boarding a trip boat. We constructed this on the foredeck which caused quite a stir in he anchorage.

On the lower end of the schemes scale we've collected empty bottles and cans. In wealthy countries we bin hoke; especially near marinas. It's astonishing the number of discarded boat bits we've been able to fix and sell on. Even here in Ireland we recently found a small boat fridge in the skip - which worked and came complete with plug.

Where-ever possible we pick wild food and hunt fish. We rarely eat expensive processed food. We bake bread and bottle meat. In fact the poorer and less developed a country is the better it is for our lifestyle. We buy in bulk when things are cheap and eat off it in leaner times. Ireland is expensive but on Mithril we're living well with Fijian spices, Tongan mangoes, New Zealand cheese, Chilean wine and Argentinean olives.

I don't suggest sailing off into the sunset with no money behind you but don't let "not enough money" stop you going. Money isn't an issue; it's an attitude. A good boat is an issue though; whatever you do don't go without that.

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The Difference Made By GPS

Mithril got its first global positioning system - GPS - in 1993 and we reckoned on using it once a day to check our latitude and longitude - a sort of electronic sextant. Before long it was on 24 hours a day and used as an accurate clock, an anchor alarm, a speed log and trip planner - the complete navigator in fact. Soon we had sold our spare sextant and acquired a second GPS. Just recently Peter decided to check the sextant and found he couldn't open the box - the hinges were corroded solid.

This year, after 82 days at sea from South Georgia Peter announced that tonight we would see the Fastnet light for the first time at midnight and 30 degrees on the port bow and so we did - exactly there and then; the Guaranteed Plain Sailing GPS at work.

The downside to this accuracy is that everyone follows the same line, the group planning strategy GPS, and using weather fax quite often leave at the same time. The result is a pile up. Passing the Azores we met 8 yachts in one day 2 of them passing close enough to talk to without shouting.

Because of the reliability of the little electronic wizard you quickly forget that the paper charts you use to programme it are often less than 100% correct especially in more remote parts of the world. Some of the Chilean charts we used were as much as 2 miles out which is pretty worrying in a channel only 1 and a half miles wide. While sailing in the Caribbean we used GPS to avoid isolated underwater and therefore invisible coral reefs, especially on the south coast of Cuba. I was startled when a guest asked how we would have done it before. We wouldn't have gone anywhere near the place before.

An even more frightening example of this is Minerva reef, a coral ring 2 miles in diameter, lying about 200 miles north of New Zealand and visible only at low water springs. Navigating around here in the past was with red eyes and white knuckles. Desmond Bagley even wrote a thriller about looking for the fabled reef. Now with GPS everybody goes there. We met a family who made it their first ever offshore and I hesitate to say it landfall. Punch in the co-ordinates and go for it. These same co-ordinates may come from a paper chart drawn by Captain Bligh of the Bounty fame and are largely unchanged since. His name still appears in the corner.

The Pacific is the least well mapped of the oceans and all sorts of mysterious symbols appear on the charts like discoloured water, underwater volcanic activity reported 1920, blind rollers - whatever they are and maybe there is someone out there who can tell me what the vast swathes of things that look like a child's drawing of clouds are. The GPS was blank about that one.

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Article © Peter and Geraldine Foley
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