Larry and Diana Caillouet are throwing a One Year Before the Mast party to celebrate their 365th day at sea, logged during a recent charter in the Bahamas. The fact that their days before the mast have been nonconsecutive makes the feat even more impressive. The name of the party is a literary reference to Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, a sea journal published in 1840. The Caillouets, who live in landlocked Kentucky, own a Sunsail 50 named Mary Jewell in the BVI and have traveled the world as Sunsail boat owners.
Though Larry refers to the Virgin Islands as his "home away from home," using their owner time on sister ships, he and Diana have sailed with Sunsail and The Moorings in the Adriatic Sea, the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean and all over the Caribbean. Sure enough, they've seen some incredible sights and they have no shortage of sea tales, all documented in an interesting travelogue and photo journal. Take the fish in the photo above, for example. Nice catch, but no, he didn't hook it. The unlucky 18-pound queenfish jumped into his dinghy in the middle of the night while he was anchored off of the famously beautiful Whitehaven Beach in Australia's Whitsunday Islands. We asked Larry all about his experience with Mary Jewell and the ownership program with the hope that he could share some tips and insight into charter yacht ownership. He most certainly has.
Q&A with Larry Caillouet, Sunsail Owner Q: Do you sail your boat annually?
A: We have sailed most often from BVI, but we have also chartered from St. Martin, Antigua, St. Lucia, Abacos Bahamas, Belize, Dubrovnik Croatia, Raiatea French Polynesia, Whitsundays Australia, Phuket Thailand, and Seychelles.
Q: What's your favorite part of a sailing vacation?
A: I’ll never grow tired of that special feeling when the wind fills the sails for the first time and the boat heels over and starts to cut through the water powered by nothing but wind alone. And sleeping on the boat just can’t be beat—the rhythmic rocking of the boat, no telephone, television, or to-do list to prevent your body from getting in sync with the natural rhythms of the planet.
Q: Who do you usually bring with you on your vacations? Friends, family, or do you just enjoy the time yourselves?
A: We have brought friends and family, but most often we sail with just the two of us. We would bring friends or family more often, but we travel to such distant places that it is often hard for them to make the time to travel and then spend several days on the boat. We enjoy the privacy of being on the boat alone, but it is great fun to show our friends our favorite places or to experience new adventures with them.
Q: Have you developed any tips, tricks, or habits for your sailing vacations, such as provisioning strategies or rules, etc.?
A: We charter several times per year so we have developed checklists to make planning and packing for each trip easier and faster. There is a checklist of everything that we need to take with us—navigation equipment, snorkeling and diving equipment, safety equipment, sun equipment, medicines, travel documents, etc. There is a similar but shorter Packing List for Guests. There is another list of 25 things to check on the boat before leaving the marina. And there is a list called Crew Briefing Instructions or “How to Live on a Sailboat without Getting Hurt or Making a Mess.”
Q: What's the most memorable thing you've ever seen on the water?
A: The most memorable thing I’ve ever seen would be either the sight of Bora Bora rising above the horizon from 25 miles away or a waterspout that came through our anchorage on Montserrat while we were in the cockpit eating dinner. It missed our boat but hit the boat next to us and bounced it all around like a boxer with a punching bag.
Q: Tell me more about the Tahiti trip.
A: One of my best all time memories is paddling our dinghy up the tiny Faaroa River on Raiatea. The luxuriant foliage canopied over the narrow river in many places making me think of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. But there were no hostile natives, only new discoveries of frangipani, hibiscus, heliconia, orchids, and wild ginger around every bend until the river became too shallow to continue.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a Sunsail owner?
A: Being able to sail in exotic locations all over the world without having to move our boat there. Hop on a plane, step off in paradise, board the boat, and sail away.
Q: Have you gotten to know the base manager, staff, or locals at your home base or others?
A: We know the dock hands at our home base by name and they welcome us back when we arrive. At some of the smaller bases like Whitsundays, Seychelles, and even Dubrovnik, we came to think of the base managers as personal friends. We would enjoy spending time with them even if we were not sailing.
Q: Why did you choose this ownership program instead of buying a private boat?
A: Buying a boat is only the beginning of the expense. Dockage, insurance, and maintenance can exceed the mortgage payment. And I’m not sure that a private boat would be taken care of in my absence the way the Sunsail and Moorings boats are cared for. The other big advantage is being able to sail a variety of boats in locations around the world. My sailing expertise and confidence have developed much better this way, and the adventure possibilities are so much more diverse.
Q: What do you plan to do with your boat at the end of the program?
A: That’s a good question. I’m sold on the advantages of owning a boat in the Tui Marine fleet, but I love my own Sunsail boat, Mary Jewell. I think I am prepared now (maybe?) for a major trans-ocean voyage and I will soon have the time available to seriously consider such a voyage.