“On the worst day, we had 35-40 knot winds and 15-18 foot seas. I loved it! It was uncomfortable in an exhilarating way. Like riding a roller coaster.”
It’s difficult to sail when you live in the Rocky Mountains. But that doesn’t stop Rusty Croom from getting on the water. Rusty found Bluesail in 2019 and participated in a week-long mileage-building and training course with Captain Tyler on a beautiful Jeanneau 479. He came back to Bluesail in May 2022 to obtain his NauticEd SLC license on a Dufour 382 GL and, since then, he’s been taking every opportunity to get on the water. And boy, does he have some stories to share!
Although Rusty does not currently own a boat (mountain living problems), he hops on casual charters as crew or he charters boats on his own. His most recent journey took him to the South Pacific, where he sailed from Tahiti to Fiji with two strangers on a 46’ Bavaria sailboat. Wild, right?
Let’s dive into some questions about Rusty’s sailing adventures.
How did you find this opportunity to sail for two weeks in the South Pacific?
I was following these YouTubers who were sailing around the world (their page is no longer active). It was a couple, but they broke up when they got to French Polynesia. The guy wanted to cross to Fiji, which is just under 2,000 nautical miles. So he reached out to me to see if I was interested as we casually kept in touch on Instagram/YouTube over the years.
It was supposed to be a two-week passage. So I made arrangements and flew to Tahiti. We did some boat work and brought on a hitchhiking crew member before setting sail.
Can you share some details about sailing in the South Pacific during August?
Well, we got as far as Bora Bora before the wind stopped. And instead of continuing with the motor - which we didn't have enough fuel to make it 2,000 miles - we went into Bora Bora and waited for the wind to pick back up. After a few days, we set sail for Fiji.
The thing that I wasn't [as well] aware of as I should have been, was that the weather in the South Pacific during that time of year is very unstable. There are a lot of storms that form in the Southern Pacific Ocean during August/September (their late winter).
We set off from Bora Bora with a beautiful 12 knots of wind…but it was rough. The seas were 8-10 feet. The first night out, we shredded the gennaker. We were sailing downwind with the Genoa and mainsail, with no whisker pole…which is not the easiest way to sail. On the worst day, we had 35-40 knot winds and 15-18 foot seas. I loved it! It was uncomfortable in an exhilarating way. Like riding a roller coaster. And, by the way, the hitchhiker didn’t really know how to sail, so it was just me and the owner navigating these conditions.
We stopped in American Samoa, which was not in the plan, but we wanted to buy more fuel because the forecast said that the wind was going to die. From there we sailed through Tonga and to our last stop, Fiji. The last part was also rough — there were rain squalls all night, every night, until we finally pulled into port. And that was the most awesome place I had ever been. I HIGHLY recommend Fiji!
What did you learn from your South Pacific sailing trip?
I experienced how competence worked in my favor — after all the drills that Captain Tyler put me through, I was able to handle the boat way better than the owner. Especially when it came to anchoring, mooring, or docking, and that’s thanks to what I learned with Bluesail!
I was also excited to learn that there are a lot of opportunities out there if you want to sail and don’t own a boat.
How do you usually find crew opportunities?
Just through word of mouth. Since this trip, I've been offered three or four opportunities to sail. For example, from Hawaii to San Francisco, from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean — and all through word of mouth within the sailing community. Once you've been out there and proven that you're competent, able, and willing, there are plenty of opportunities.
Do you have advice for boat owners before embarking on a big sailing trip?
This is nothing revolutionary but…know your boat. Know how to fix anything onboard and how to keep your passengers safe. Secondly, you should confidently understand the training and education aspect of sailing: what are you going to do when the winds blow 30 knots and there are 12-foot seas? What do you do with the sails? What courses to steer? What do you do when you lose your sail? You should know those types of things. And that’s what Bluesail is all about.