Subscribe to our newsletter

Voyaging

Vicki and Maynard Smith Interview

Vicki and Maynard Smith have logged thousands of miles under the keel in both sail- and powerboats, and from the sound of it they’re just getting started.

Vicki and Maynard Smith
Vicki and Maynard Smith

“Maynard and I are just two ordinary people having a bit of an adventure,” is how Vicki Smith humbly understates the cruise that, in six months, has already taken them, aboard their Marlow 76LR, Vanish, from Florida to Nova Scotia and now back down to the Caribbean. 

But that’s only the start. The Smiths are hazy on what’s next: Perhaps back to Maine for the summer (the word Greenland pops up), perhaps around South America via Cape Horn. Then a little 3,100-nautical-mile hop to Tahiti, followed by Micronesia, New Zealand, and home to Australia. In the process of their travels, their unpretentious and informative cruising blog (http://sailblogs.com/member/vanish) has attracted an astonishing 16,000 followers.

Power & Motoryacht: Tell us about your backgrounds? 
Smiths: Maynard has a 40-year career as a geophysicist drilling wells in the Gulf of Mexico while living in Australia, so he travels a lot. Our relaxation time was previously spent bodyboarding and windsurfing. We live on our coffee plantation in New South Wales, the most easterly point of Australia.

Power & Motoryacht: How did you get into boating?
Smiths: One day after windsurfing, Maynard said he’d like to buy a sailboat, but he promised to only pursue boating for three years. That was 22 years ago.

Power & Motoryacht: What boats have you had?
Smiths: We’ve had six, starting with a trailer sailer, two Beneteaus, a Santa Cruz 52, a Sunseeker 75 (part of a house sale), and now Vanish, our Marlow Voyager 76LR.

Power & Motoryacht: What brought you from sail to power?
Smiths: The Sunseeker opened our eyes to something safe and comfortable for great distances. Vicki also wanted a fridge that didn’t require pulling everything out to find the sliced cheese at the bottom.

Power & Motoryacht: How do you use your boats?
Smiths: We decided to learn about sailing by racing but, in 2003, we stopped racing and now spend four to five months cruising per year. [Author’s note: The Smiths are modest. They sailed from California to Australia, and have completed about 55,000 miles of voyaging. And they plan on thousands more.]

Power & Motoryacht: How do you fit boating into a busy life?
Smiths: Cell and satphones have opened up boating for all of us. Our friends and family take it all in stride. Quite often, they don’t even know we’re on a boat, so please don’t say anything, okay?

Power & Motoryacht: How do you run your business from onboard?
Smiths: You have to be organized. Some of our passages are organized to fit in with whatever is happening in the oil company. We have KVH Fleet Broadband 150 for Internet in remote locations with a booster and aerials for the mobile-phone system when in coverage. 

Power & Motoryacht: Most memorable experiences?
Smiths: Winning our division in the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race in trying conditions [60-knot gales], despite suddenly stepping into six inches of water in the cabin [a loose hatch]. Or riding out 80 knots of wind and 10-foot seas on our 28-footer for five days in Victoria.

Power & Motoryacht: Favorite places so far?
Smiths: Nothing compares to remote Palmyra 1,045 miles south of Hawaii. We spent two weeks snorkeling amongst massive schools of fish in 80-degree water. But we fell in love with Maine, too.

Power & Motoryacht: Tips for shorthanded cruising?
Smiths: Make your own judgment call on where and when to go. Listen to your body. If you are rested and ready and feel it is time to go, then go. Schedules are almost always trouble. Things that make you happy on land will make you happy offshore. Take books, music, pets, or start something new. Learn as much about the weather as possible and play the weather windows.

Power & Motoryacht: Future plans?
Smiths: We change our minds a lot. Our current thinking is Cape Horn and then across the Pacific to Australia. We want to spend time in New Zealand, Tasmania, and Palau. But then, we love Maine ... .

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Related Features