So, Cameron, tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?
Compared to most of the people you’ve interviewed I would say that Kim and I are relative newbies. Prior to acquiring Sea Level II we had a Meridian 459 which allowed us to explore BC and Washington coastal waters primarily in the Gulf and San Juan islands. Since purchasing Sea level II we have circumnavigated Vancouver Island, gone up the central coast of British Columbia before we headed south to San Diego last summer where we joined the CUBAR rally from San Diego to La Paz in November. Earlier this year we have explored the islands north of La Paz and the eastern coast of the Baja Peninsula as far north as Bahia Concepcion.
Why did you choose Nordhavn?
Purchasing the Meridian gave us a taste of boating and cruising which we have both thoroughly enjoyed but we realized that if we wanted to travel any further than the protected waters of British Columbia we would need a different type of boat. That got us looking at ocean capable boats. We did the research on all the most common trawler brands and attended a number of Trawlerfests to have a look at as many boats as we could. I kept coming back to the Nordhavn’s in terms of their safety and seaworthiness .We were seriously looking at an Outer Reef as Kim liked the internal layout but when I pointed out to her that the Nordhavn was approximately twice the weight of the Outer Reef for the same overall length that seemed to convince her.
What has been your cruising highlight so far?
That’s a tough question. I would say from a scenic beauty point of view the west side of Vancouver Island and the islands and eastern coast of the Baja Peninsula have been breathtaking.
In terms of our overall cruising experiences so far planning, preparing for and completing our trip from Vancouver down the west coast of the US and the Mexican Baja Peninsula and up in to La Paz in the Sea of Cortez would have to be our biggest highlight to date. Gaining the skills, judgement and confidence to tackle the trip gave both Kim and I a huge sense of accomplishment.
Do you travel with an animal/s on board?
No, not normally. We have had our son’s dog and others dogs on board for short trips but normally we are “pet-less”. I know Kim would like to have a dog on board with us and, depending on where we end up going, we might yet do this.
In your past life what did you and Kim do?
Cameron – In my past life (and current one for a little bit longer) I’ve been a professional engineer and principal in a firm that designs and builds many types of buildings. My training is as a structural engineer which I did for many years before primarily focusing on management roles within the business.
Kim – I am a Home Economics grad and started my career working in recipe development and food photography. After that, I worked as a kitchen designer for the years before our three sons were born. As our boys got into school and sports, I joined the PAC and managed hockey teams!! More recently I worked in residential landscape design but now consider myself “retired” (does a mom EVER really retire?!?!) and now have time to visit our two grandsons in Winnipeg, “hit the gym”, travel on the boat and keep an eye on Zoe (the family/ son’s dog)
Kim, if there is one thing Cameron does that irritates you while underway what would that be?
Very little irritates me when we are on the boat … but if I had to pick something, it would be when Cameron seemingly does not know where things are in the “pink zones”, yet I know where most things are in the “blue zones” … or at least I make an effort to learn!!! This is a common issue at home as well as on the boat … and I know from speaking to other First Mates, that it is a common complaint among many them!!!!
And it’s only fair I ask Cameron the same question, so Cameron, if there was one thing Kim does that irritates you what would that be?
She sometimes questions expenditures on the boat! Can you imagine that? No, I didn’t think so…it’s almost inconceivable. If the boat needs something, the boat needs something! Surely we can go without eating for a few days… I mean really.
Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?
Kim – Kim Crawford’s Sauvignon Blanc ….
Cameron – Kim, after she has run out of Sauvignon Blanc……huge problem!
Would you describe yourselves as more hunters or more gathers?
Gatherers … definitely gatherers.
Why did you name your vessel Sea Level II?
The boat came to us as SEA LEVEL and we liked the name right from the get-go. It made sense to us … SEA is obvious and LEVEL because Cameron is an Engineer things being level is important!! We added Roman Numeral II to her name as Sea Level was already taken as a registered name in Canada. As we were her second owners that also seemed fitting.
What other names did you consider?
Kim – We named our Meridian 459 WATERFRONT because it was always my dream to have waterfront property. Cameron convinced me that with a boat, we would always have waterfront property and it would always be changing! That appealed to me ….
What is the one lesson every boater should learn?
Cameron – Learn to exercise good judgement. Bad judgement can get you in to situations that, if you’re lucky, just scare you or cost you some money to repair something. If you’re unlucky it could be a whole lot worse.
One of our main goals is to “minimize the drama”. All of this is supposed to be fun and stress-reducing. While I don’t dwell on the negative I do run lots of “what if” scenarios in my head to ensure that I’ve done all I can to avoid or minimize the drama.
Kim – Respect Mother Nature!!! She ALWAYS wins ….
What is your favourite anchorage and why?
We have been in so many spectacular anchorages it’s hard to isolate just one as our favourite. Probably the most notable one in the recent past has been “the hook” at the south end of Isla San Francisco in the Sea of Cortez with its crystal clear water, white sand beach and high look-out point from which you can look back in to the bay.
What is your favourite Marina and why?
Probably one of the nicest marinas we’ve been in is where we are now; the Marina Costa Baja in La Paz. It’s gorgeous and part of a larger resort with lots of pools, restaurants and other amenities. Not a bad place to hang out.
What is your favourite quote and why?
Cameron – “You become the average of the people you spend time with”.
That quote has always stuck with me. If you spend time with pessimistic and small people they will drag you down. If you spend time with optimistic, fun and adventurous people they will lift you up. Without a doubt virtually everyone we have met through boating falls in the latter category. We are doing things we had never even dreamed of because of the energy and motivation we’ve gotten from spending time with these positive people.
“If they can do it so can we” has probably become my second most favourite quote.
Kim – “In the story that is your life, let one chapter be extraordinary” …. We are working on that now!!
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while at sea?
Kim – As is often the case, it WASN’T funny at the time, but we have since chuckled about it …. On the CUBAR, heading to Bahia Muertos, we had a fitting blow on our water tank (luckily with very little water in it) and the water tank emptied into the “basement” and pooled in the laundry room (because unbeknownst to us, the bilge plug was left in the floor under a floor panel.) When our crew member Ed, noticed that the water level gauge was dropping even though the water-maker was running, we madly began trying to determine where the water had gone. When the problem was discovered, Ed and I madly bailed the water out of the laundry area with the coffee pot! Meanwhile, Captain Cam was THROWING UP over the side of the boat due to extremely rough seas. It was an interesting trip …..
What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?
The answer to this question relates to my answer above about lessons learned. The following description is an example of exercising poor judgement or at least not recognizing the negative factors that were starting to stack up against us.
While approaching the Cap Santé Marina in Anacortes, Washington on a minus tide (the approach to this marina is down a very narrow dredged channel with a tight entry between a rock rip-rap breakwater to port and a sheet-pile wall to starboard) the wind really started to pick up. What was a manageable 10-15 kn on the port beam quickly became 20-25 kn. With the perception that the safety of the marina was only a few hundred feet away we continued in to the narrow waterway with a fair amount of headway on to maintain steerage and crabbing noticeably against the wind. When we were almost at the entrance a gust of 35kn hit us (I remember glancing at the wind gauge when it hit us) which started pushing us in to a pile of rocks on our starboard side. I steered hard against the gust and started bringing the bow back in to the wind but quickly realized that I was at risk of not being able to stop the turn to windward (and towards the breakwater) and re-line up with the narrow marina entrance. At that point I decided to bail on the whole idea of entering the marina and turn around to head back out. I steepened the turn to port and started to bring the boat around. At the apex of the turn the boat was no more than five feet outside of the line of channel markers but with the narrow dredged channel and an extremely low tide that’s all it took; the starboard stabilizer fin hit some rocks, the foam fin broke up and we scuffed along the edge of the dredged channel. We threw the boat in to full reverse and backed away in to the centre of the channel while watching the breakwater behind us getting closer and closer. We managed to avoid the breakwater, got re-centred in the channel and headed back out in to deeper water.
Then we did what I should have done in the first place when I saw the wind really pick up; we went to a nearby island, anchored in the lee of it and waited until the windstorm had died down.
Later that afternoon we entered the approach channel for a second time in light winds on a mid-tide with no problems.
We have probably entered that marina a hundred times in many different conditions; steady broadside winds, minus tides and with approaching traffic that required us to hug the edge of the channel with no problems but that day the combination of an extremely low tide, a high broadside wind that suddenly gusted gave us no margin for error.
I should have recognized that this combination of factors was creating a baseline situation that would be completely unforgiving if anything, like a big wind gust, were to happen.
The primary damage (after replacing the stabilizer fin and repairing the damage to the fibreglass) was psychological. I have replayed those moments over and over again in my mind and come up with a new cardinal rule…”never, never enter a situation for which there is no way out if things all start going to custard”.
What is your most hated boat job?
Cameron – Repairing anything to do with the black-water system. Fortunately they haven’t happened too often but when they do they are a real test of your ability to supress your gag reflex.
Kim – I enjoy washing the boat, but I am very challenged to wash the hull as I am only 5’2” and the hull is … tall.
Tell us a little something about Sea Level II and what makes her so special?
Sea Level II is actually hull #1 of the 60 series. As we understand it she was actually the second 60 fully finished but was the first one out of the mold. We are her second owners and when we bought her she had only 300 hours on the main engine and was two years old.
On PAE’s website under the Models heading the cover picture for the 60 is Sea level II. On the Nordhavn Dreamers website the far right hand side boat is also Sea Level II.
So…. she is a cover girl. (She was also Miss April in the 2015 Nordhavn calendar along with Northern Ranger!!)
Besides being a firstborn and photogenic she has catalysed for Kim and I the next chapter in our life together. Figuring out how to buy her when we weren’t really ready to do it, getting comfortable with her systems and running her (particularly with a number of unresolved commissioning-type problems to start with), spending countless hours taking classes and attending TrawlerFest shows to learn about all the things we didn’t know, meeting and becoming good friends with some of the most amazing people, dreaming about “where to go” knowing that you could go safely “anywhere” and sharing all of these experiences with friends and family is really what has made owning Sea Level II so special for us.
Oh yeah…. and she is one tough and seaworthy boat….. waaay tougher than her owners. Even when we’ve been in big seas I’ve never felt at risk…miserable maybe…..but never at risk.
What is the one thing you are most afraid of? \
Cameron – Screwing up. I think a lot about trying to manage the risk inherent in what we’re doing. Making sure the boat is ready to go, that we make good decisions, that the weather is manageable, that Kim and I and our crew are as prepared as we can be…. those of the things I worry about. Usually when things “go to custard” it’s not the result of one really bad decision but a number of smaller ones that start combining in the wrong way. Besides learning from my own mistakes I try and learn from other people’s experiences as learning their lesson(s) may save me from making the same one. Those lessons are inexpensive and danger-free!
Kim – pirates
What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?
Kim – I love the sunset photos … sunsets on the water are amazing.
What would you never leave behind (besides each other) when heading out to sea?
Cameron – a satellite phone (when you’re out of cell coverage). Having the ability to access experts, should a problem arise, gives me great peace of mind. Usually with the right technical advice a calamity can be reduced to a manageable problem.
Kim tell us something about yourselves that nobody knows?
If I tell you then everyone will know!
And finally, where to next?
Good question. For 2017 our plans are to explore the mainland coastline of Mexico and then return to La Paz for the summer and fall. For 2018 our plans are to head to Costa Rica and then make a final decision with respect to turning left or right. Our current thinking is to turn left through the Panama, see the San Blas Islands and Cartagena and then work our way north through the Caribbean, Cuba and along the US and Canadian seaboards. Stay tuned….
Thank you very much for your time, will be watching this year’s progress closely.
Good luck with your travels!
And their blog site at: N60Sealevel