Expedition Sailing and Overlanding with Brian McVickers
Show Notes for Podcast Episode #58
Expedition Sailing and Overlanding with Brian McVickers
Scott discussed with Brian McVickers the similarities and lessons learned from expedition sailing, including their recent crossing of the Pacific Ocean with The Kailani Expedition.
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Full Transcription below:
Brian McVickers Podcast
Scott Brady: [00:00:00] Well, I'm Scott Brady and welcome to the Overland journal podcast. I'm out here with my longtime friend and business partner, Brian McVickers and we are sailing across the Northern Pacific to the Bering Sea on the Kailani. This is a 52-foot sailboat made by Island Packet and we are aiming right now for a pass next to Amatignak Island in the Aleutians so that we can make safe passage in the Bering Sea and we're going to do just our little intro here, cause we're going to bring it back to the studio for the in-depth conversation. As you can see, both are busy at the moment doing sailing stuff. So, I will talk to you in the office and Brian, thanks for being on the podcast man. Hello and welcome to the Overland journal podcast. I am your host; Scott Brady and my co-host Matt Scott are not with us today because he is bouncing around somewhere in Zanzibar. I believe today on his honeymoon congratulation Matt is really excited for Laura and you and I have a special [00:01:00] guest today in our studio, Bryan McVickers. We just did a little introduction of him and our expedition with the Kailani expedition in the intro feed that we recorded on the boat, but now we're back in the studio and we're going to talk through expedition sailing. We're going to talk a little bit about your life and the things that have trained you to not only be our chief business development officer, but an expedition sailor, and certainly an Overlander in your own right. I think that they all come together in a very interesting story that I believe that our listeners will really enjoy and now for a quick break from one of our supporters, let's take a minute to recognize one of the godfathers of overlanding and onboard power and off-grid towing the folks at Red Arc build the toughest most versatile power management electronics known to man and right now, red arc is sponsoring a $20,000 vehicle upgrade and expense paid adventure. It's the Red Arc power, your wild sweepstakes, and it's easy to enter. Visit RedArcElectronics.com/PowerYourWild. [00:02:00] Sign up and power your odds by visiting Red Arcs, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube pages, Outback tested Outback tough. So get to it and power your wild with Red Arc.
Brian McVickers: Thanks Scott, I appreciate being on the podcast. Get to see it happen every week and it's kind of fun to be on behind the microphone, so yeah.
Scott Brady: No, it's super fun to have you here, and it's also so rewarding for me that the team of people that we've worked so hard to assemble at Overland international, we're all adventurers, we're all travelers, and we've all got these great stories to tell. So it is fun to have our own team members on the show as well and talk about these very interesting topics like expedition sailing, for example today,
Brian McVickers: I remember, well about 15 years ago when we all first came together to create what we've done, I remember that we all brought some different sense of adventure with us. I think that sense of travel and exploration we all had in common, regardless of our other backgrounds.
Scott Brady: Yeah, we certainly did, and Expedition Portal had [00:03:00] started... I had this crazy idea of a magazine with Jonathan Hanson, and I called you up and I said, Hey can you meet us in north Phoenix for some sushi at the...
Brian McVickers: Sushi restaurant.
Scott Brady: That's right. And you had some experience or quite a bit of experience in marketing and advertising in other areas of the outdoor space, but you had not done the Overland thing because the Overland thing wasn't much of a thing at the time. There wasn't really much of an industry, but we sat down and we had this conversation and I think I was mid-sentence and you're like, I'm in.
Brian McVickers: It wasn't a hard decision by any means. And I don't remember that. I had just come off of several years exploring by sailboat and when we came back to land, I still wanted to explore and that's how I got into overlanding. I remember, you know, buying a land Rover Discovery Two.
Scott Brady: You had like the one reliable 2001.
Brian McVickers: Great truck. I had that for eight years before it started to degrade.
Scott Brady: It was so reliable.
Brian McVickers: I remember getting into the [00:04:00] overlanding thing and using it for traveling and we really enjoyed that. But I've always had, you know, coming from a background of being an athlete and being competitive and then competitive sailboat racing. I had this great truck, and I was like, so how can I compete with it? What can I do? And that's when you were doing the expedition trophy.
Scott Brady: That's right. I remember.
Brian McVickers: And that's one of the first times we met was at an expedition trophy and we were all having fun, being a little competitive with our trucks.
Scott Brady: Well, and I actually think the very first time that we met I was in a Fry's parking lot, and you were actually buying my grandfather's welder from me. It was like a giant stick welder.
Brian McVickers: The Lincoln tombstone, the red box.
Scott Brady: It was and you had the only one of your two kids at the time when they were in the, in the little car seat in the back so yeah, it's been, it has been a long time and so fun that we can take this journey together, and then more recently we took a very serious journey. Why don't you share with the listener what we did?
Brian McVickers: Yeah, sure. So very [00:05:00] recently, we set sail in June, mid-June, I think June 17 through June 19th, we left from Long Beach, California, San Pedro and we crossed the Pacific Ocean on a 50-foot island packet. We sailed up to the Bering Sea and so that was a pretty momentous kind of expedition in many ways. So we had... I have a good friend, Rusty Friends, and he bought this island packet back in 2014 and I helped him sail it down the west coast. We brought it from Portland down to San Diego and Rusty is a lifelong friend. I met him in St. Petersburg, Florida back in 2000 when we were both preparing our boats to go cruise a Caribbean independently of one another, we just happened to be at the dock. So, you know, a number of years later, he says, Hey , I bought this new boat and helped me out with it. So we sell it down the west coast and then last fall, As we're all kind of sitting around, you know, dealing with 2020 he calls up and he said, Hey, let's sail to Hawaii, [00:06:00] and he said yeah that's a cool idea and, you know, cause it's a great sail. I've never done it, but it's about a three-week sail. It's a bit of a bit of a sleigh ride. You know, you've got the wind behind you and it's not terribly difficult. I said, well, what are we going to do when we get there? He said, well, you know, maybe we'll go up to Seattle. I said, well, if we're going to go to Seattle, you know, why don't we go to Alaska and then prepare to do the Northwest passage up over Canada and go to Greenland. He said, no, that's, that's crazy. We're not doing that and, and this was an 11 o'clock at night conversation and. About five 30 the next morning, I just get this text and he says, okay, we're doing the Northwest passage. He's the kind of guy that is either it's all or none. So it's full throttle and so ever since then, we just started creating this plan. Then Canada just didn't open up for travelers. So Canada for 2021 for the first half, at least they weren't permitted by anybody to come into the Canadian waters. So we couldn't do the Northwest passage. We decided, well, we still have the time allocated and let's come up with another idea. [00:07:00] Let's go explore the Aleutian Islands up in Alaska. Nobody goes there, and when we were there, nobody was there, and it's this really historic and beautiful area of the world to go explore and so to get there, you've got to cross the Pacific and that's when, you know, I knew that you had always wanted to do a sailing expedition of some sort, if you and I have done so many land-based overlanding expeditions together. I just thought it was a great opportunity for us all to go do something really amazing.
Scott Brady: And when you first, I mean, of course I was completely honored, but I'm in the back of my mind, I'm thinking what can I possibly contribute to this endeavor? Because I mean, I had done a week of sailing and gotten a Bareboat license. So you could basically rent a sailboat and hopefully not run into something. So... and that was in 2012. So before I even started Expedition Seven, I didn't touch another sailboat until we stepped on to Kailani on the long beach. So, I knew less than [00:08:00] nothing
Brian McVickers: You knew very little, but you know, I remember talking with you about this and it's like a lot of expeditions where the expertise in the physical, you know, driving the vehicle or sailing the boat. I mean, you, you definitely need that, but as we've experienced before, what can really make or break an expedition or a big trip like that is the people involved. So it comes down to personalities, you know, demeanor. Can you keep her cool in adverse situations? You're well-proven in that. So the lack of sailing experience was the least of any concern besides your medical experience, you can work on a diesel engine. You're very mechanically inclined and the rest of it you pick up along the way pretty quickly.
Scott Brady: Well, and it was, it was literally being thrown into the deep end, literally the deep end. And that's what I love about endeavors like this. As you start into them with an idea of what it's going to be like, again, this is when you know nothing, when you know nothing. You start into it with an idea of [00:09:00] what it's going to be like, and it could have, it could have been a thousand different ways and we got one of the easier ways, but it was still completely different than what I expected it to be. So I think it would be interesting to talk about the fact that you started under scholastics academic opportunities for sailing for you when you were in college. So you're racing for college. What did you learn from that? Then you moved on to cruising with now your wife, Amy.
Brian McVickers: Sure. You know, it started a little bit earlier than that. When I was 12 years old, my parents signed me up for sailing camp in the summer. And we live just outside of Chicago and a little town called the Grange. I would take the train into the city every morning. I had my duffel bag and I'm sitting there on the train with all the business suits, and I get into the city, and I'd go down to Columbia yacht club and I'd spend my days learning how to sail that quickly turned into racing is the little yacht club at a, a junior racing team and we would race the other yacht clubs up and [00:10:00] down the coast of lake Michigan. So I did that through starting at 12 years old into high school. When I was in high school, I was more involved with the racing team. We would start to travel around the county. I started our Lyons Township high school sailing team, said one member, which was me. I remember the principal gave me $65 to enter a regatta. That was my sponsorship as a high school sailor.
Scott Brady: And what kind of boat were you sailing at that time?
Brian McVickers: So we were racing Sunfish Lasers, 420s, FJs, things like that. So small single and double handed, sailing boats. Then as I got into high school, my stepfather invited me to sail or race on our family boat which was a 33-foot tart in 10. So it's a one design race. It means all the boats are identical to one another and then they operate under some, they call them, you know, kind of class rules so nobody can put too much money into their boat and make it too much more advantageous on the next boat. [00:11:00] So you're limited year to year what you can do to the boat. So it was great racing to learn tactics and strategy, and really the fundamentals of sailing sailboats, because everybody was racing the exact same race.
Scott Brady: What a great way to do that. Levels the playing field.
Brian McVickers: Really it's one of my favorite ways to race is with one design. It is kind of really the only way to do it. I love it and so then getting later into high school, you know, it's time for college and I started to apply to colleges that had racing teams. So I got into old dominion university as well as a couple others, but they had asked me to come in and also be on a racing team. So for college, I raced with an old dominion, it's in Norfolk, Virginia. There it was pretty much year-round. We would practice from three o'clock to six o'clock every day, and then we add regattas on the weekends. So we would travel up and down the east coast racing other colleges.
Scott Brady: And what boat was that for those races.
Brian McVickers: So for those, we did Lasers FJs we did... those were the primary two boats, [00:12:00] so Lasers and FJs and then every year for the, they would have a larger regatta or a larger series where we'd do small keelboats. So we would often do things like J22s, J24s.
Scott Brady: Yeah. I've seen some of those come up advertised for sale and they have a pretty long keel. They do, with the weight concentrated very low down on that keel.
Brian McVickers: They do. Yeah, J boats have been kind of a classic racing boat and the J24 class especially is very popular. Then the J22s is just a little bit smaller and that's a popular class as well.
Scott Brady: Somehow, along the way you bump into Amy, who's now your wife and you guys hatch a plan to go sail for years around the Caribbean. So like, how did you go? Bumping into each other to head off on what is an amazing adventure, especially that age.
Brian McVickers: Yeah, sure. So, so my summers, my college summers were spent teaching sailing. There's a yacht club called the Waukegan yacht club and for three or [00:13:00] four years I was that lead instructor there. So I headed up their program and so that got me into teaching sailing and then coaching racing. After college I started teaching adult classes at Columbia yacht club. So I remember pretty vividly to this day and so I was working for CNN and Turner broadcasting at the time I get done with work and I'm in a suit, you know, suit and tie and I get up in front of the class at, at the yacht club and I look out and there's this tall red head in the class and that's pretty much, you know, end of the story. Beginning and the end of the story and so we became...
Scott Brady: So she was a student?
Brian McVickers: Yeah, she was, she was a student in the class and so we got to be great friends. You know, we brought her on to our racing boat for training and because we'd get a bunch of the keel boats, the big boats in the yacht club to help take the adult class out for Wednesday night beer can races and some of the [00:14:00] races on the weekends. So we had the friend Amy and she came on our boat and then kind of the end of the story, and we were good buddies, just good friends for about a year and a half before we even started, you know, officially dating. Yeah, and it just, you know, love her to death and it was just amazing and, and we get along so well and so fast forward a little bit to around 2000 and well, just back up a little bit before that probably 1998, 1999, we went over to we went to France and we chartered a Oceanis 55.
Scott Brady: Nice boat.
Brian McVickers: About absolutely gorgeous boat and we circumnavigated Corsica and so that must've been 2000, no that was 1999 because the entire time I had this engagement ring with me and the entire time, and so I proposed to her on Corsica on the... there's a 10,000-foot peak there called Babila. So we [00:15:00] went up there and so that was, you know, part of our story, because the significant part of that story is that's the first time we really saw people living on sailboats and up to this point, I just raced them. I race sailboats, and we saw cruisers on their cruising boats and you just kinda like... you know, that's not really sailing, you know? So, you know, it's all about racing. That's the first time we met people who were living on their boat and exploring the world by sailboat, and we just fell in love with the idea. We thought it was great. So we went back to Chicago and we were trying to decide what we're going to do when we get married, you know, do you move out to the suburbs? Do you get a condo in the city? Do you start a family right away? Our solution was to sell everything that we had, buy a sailboat, live on the sailboat and then travel and figure it out along the way. So we bought an Allied Princess Two which is a 36 foot staysail catch and we bought that in St. Petersburg, Florida moved down to Florida. We lived on the boat for two years, [00:16:00] saving every penny we could. Then we took off and we went down to the Caribbean.
Scott Brady: How was that living on a sailboat for two years in a marina? I mean, I think a lot, I'm probably speaking for some of the audience at least, but I know I'm speaking for myself, but there's this very romantic idea of, if you think about the cost of real estate in Southern California, for example, or Seattle, and you look at a slip that may be $1,800 or $2,200 a month, and you realize you're on the water in usually one of the better places. Of Southern California or wherever you're at and living on the sailboat. So it, to me, sounds very appealing. How was it to actually do it?
Brian McVickers: Yeah, that's a great point. It does. It's supposed to feel really romantic, right? It was kind of like living in a trailer park.
Scott Brady: Sure, was that the Florida part?
Brian McVickers: That only made it worse and so it was interesting, you know, we, and that's part of the reason that we wound up going to the Caribbean [00:17:00] so we got into, you know, economically it was great. We were paying $450 or $500 a month for our boat payment and then we were paying I think $300 a month from the marina fee to live aboard in the marina, the slip and all the amenities. So economically it was less than we were paying for an apartment in Chicago. So that helped us to save more money and we were working our regular jobs so after a while, you know, we had come up with this idea of doing a circumnavigation and we had planned it out. We were planning out the route.
Scott Brady: Circumnavigating the planet.
Brian McVickers: The planet. So that was the original goal to circumnavigate the globe. What we found is we could never get to a point like having enough money where we felt like we would be doing that responsibly. So we were waiting and saving and trying, and then the other thing we noticed is there were a lot of people. I think that marinas, especially liveaboard marinas down in Florida, it's kind of like we're sailing dreams go to die because [00:18:00] there's a lot of people who they're working on their boats and they've got these stories about what they're going to go do, but it's never the right time. There's always another project that their boat's not quite ready to go yet. So they'll say, Hey down in Florida when you're especially trying to leave those waters you really watch the weather. There's a lot of weather windows, which you watch anywhere, but down there with the hurricane seasons and everything, we're always watching the weather windows and they would come and go and there in, there was always another project that, you know, and so eventually we woke up one morning and we kind of looked at each other and said, we either need to leave or we need to find another idea, like sell the boat, move on with life. So we decided, okay, we're just gonna, we're just gonna leave and we left with no plan, except we're going to go south. We had really detailed plans to circumnavigate, but no plan to just leave. So within, I think a week of making that decision, we were gone, and I remember getting into, I think we were in Marathon Key. Which is down in the Florida [00:19:00] keys and it's a very common jumping off point to cross the Gulf stream and we were sitting in the bar, waiting for the weather window and there was his family there who was going down to the Caribbean and they had every detail of their Caribbean experience planned out. They knew exactly where they were going to go. They had the maps; they had the Anchorage's laid out. They had everything covered and they looked over at us and they said, what are you guys doing? We said, well, we're going to go south, and that was our plan and so we just figured it out along the way, because it wasn't part of the original plan, but we decided, we're going to make an adventure of it, and so we did. We went and got lost in the Caribbean for two years, and it was an incredible experience in traveling, in meeting other people and being self-sufficient. You know, we would... I think we left Florida with two months worth of food on the boat and that lasted us quite a long time.
Scott Brady: I'm going to unpack this, this whole statement that you made about 30 seconds ago, because we always hear people on this podcast, I've said it is just to go. You're actually one of the few people, Amy, and you were actually one of the [00:20:00] few people that just woke up one day and decided that the path that you were on was not working and we're just going to go, and you actually did that. You actually, within sounds like seven days you were gone.
Brian McVickers: Yeah, and we had already made all these plans to be leaving, but we just couldn't quite get there and I think part of it, you know, we had planned the circumnavigating part out so much and that became the goal and I think we were overthinking it. So we were overthinking it, we're probably over preparing the boat, we were probably over saving, you know, we were probably thinking we need to have so much money to be able to go do that. Now I meet people who have sailed the sail to the globe or driven the globe Overland, and they work along the way. They figure out a way to make it work.
Scott Brady: You just go do it.
Brian McVickers: Now, today doing it. I think about it often, especially with a lot of the people that we work with expedition portal and overlent journal, we have contributors that are out traveling the world and they're able to do [00:21:00] that and sustain financially by writing and photography and 20 years ago that wasn't a thing.
Scott Brady: It wasn't even a possibility.
Brian McVickers: Yeah, you didn't have connectivity like that.
Scott Brady: And I think, I think that if I look at even the best trips I've ever had, are the ones that I was under prepared for oftentimes. The trips that I'm over prepared for the outcomes are usually very much what I expected and that can be a good thing, especially if you're trying to do a production or you're really trying to get to someplace, or your goals are not about the adventure. Your goals are about arriving someplace like maybe you're crossing a very dangerous area, but I think when a little bit of serendipity happens is when you really do find the true joys of travel. So that brings me to the question of what did you learn from that process of letting go and then just going that you've then since applied to your travels after that point?
Brian McVickers: One of the biggest things we learned was you don't need, you don't need all the [00:22:00] stuff that you think you need, and I think by the time that we realized that we were really set up, we had really gone through the boat. We'd never had any issues with the boat in the entire trip while we were living on it and while we were sailing it down in the Caribbean, we never ran into an issue. But part of that is the way that we prepared it, but we found that we got to this point where we had already prepared the boat well, and now we were just adding gadgets. Once we realized that we don't need gadgets, I mean, some of them are cool and they make it better. But, you know, we weren't even putting on the latest and greatest gadgets. We were kind of putting on what we could afford, just kind of going, you know, so the boat was reliable. So we were never really worried about the breakdown, the bad things happening to the boat. But I think when we started going, it was a place we were going to go and then after the fact, what I've found was we didn't know where we were going and so the places that we missed out on were all kind of the touristy places where everybody was going and then we realized we were really fine with that. So we went off the beaten path a little [00:23:00] a bit, you know, we missed out on a couple of maybe highlights, but I think I missed out on the pigs swimming off of whatever beach that they're on down there. That's a total tourist thing anyway. That's where all the cruisers go and I didn't get to see that and I'm okay with it, you know? Cause we got to see the island that I can't remember the name of, but it was completely deserted, and nobody went there, and you'd walk up on the, on land and we would walk across the island, cause it wasn't very big. When you were walking, everything was new to put it in a picture or kind of, it kind of looks like a little rainforest, right? The terrain, and when you're walking, it's dead silent and then if you stop and just stand still, the ground would come to life with snakes and crabs and they would be skittering all over. I mean, there are thousands of them, but then as soon as you took a step, they all stopped.
Scott Brady: Cause it was an untouched place.
Brian McVickers: Untouched, nobody went there. That type of thing was amazing.
Scott Brady: One of the stories, I remember you telling me that most fascinated [00:24:00] me was you guys were trying to be very careful with your finances because you wanted to stay out as long as possible and if I get the details wrong, just correct me. But I think I remember you telling me that at one point you got to where you really only needed about $120 to $130 a month on the boat, and then what you would do to get... and that was for like rice and beans and some diesel, and then you would just fish or Spearfish, or I mean, how low did you really get your expenses?
Brian McVickers: Our least expensive month was $150 to put that into perspective. We still had a boat payment, call it $500, and we still had an insurance payment on the boat. So if you look at those kinds of, those are expenses that they're there. You can't do anything about them.
Scott Brady: What was the insurance? Do you remember?
Brian McVickers: It was just, it was boat insurance.
Scott Brady: No. What was the cost of the insurance? Approximately?
Brian McVickers: I bet the insurance was maybe $150 a month. Maybe. Yeah, it wasn't much.
Scott Brady: So if you, if you [00:25:00] own the boat, you, you probably could get down to $300to $500 a month.
Brian McVickers: Now that's, if you're in a place where you can productively fish and productively, maybe even live off the land because we would that $150, you know, that would go towards some of the groceries. If we went to an island and we've got a couple staples here and there, but you get a 40-pound bag of rice, you fish every day and so we would fish from the boat. We would fish from the dinghy and then we would spear fish. So we would free dive. We had a pole spear, which it's a long… It's like an eight-foot fiberglass stick with a spear tip on one end and a rubber band on the other end. The range wasn't really good yet. You're really close to the fish. You know, other people would use a Bahamian spear which is more like a, it's like a wooden dowel with a rubber band on it, and then you can let the spirit go and it'll actually go out. Or there may be 15, 20 feet where this thing you had to be within 10 feet. But we'd harvest all sorts of fish, lobster, Conch and it was funny because the first time I ever tried to [00:26:00] harvest a conch, it probably took me two hours. You're trying to break into this thing, and I couldn't figure it out and I was, you know, destroyed by the poor shell. Just try to get the conk out. And then, you know, I met some local fishermen and they taught me how to do it in like, I don't know, under a minute.
Scott Brady: So what's the trick.
Brian McVickers: So you count the rings on the, on the shell. So that's a spiral part of the shell and you got a good knife and you, I think it's the second ring down second or third ring down and you take the backside of the knife, the doll part of the knife, and you smack the shell, like you're using the knife as a hammer and you basically chip a little hole in the shell, right at that ring. That's big enough to get the knife into, and then you flip the knife around and you stick the blade in. Robert goes back and forth a couple of times and it cuts the muscle. Now the Conch doesn't have anything to hold onto. And so then you go around the other side and you grab the foot and the foot of the cock is kind of, it's almost like a hard shell in itself. So you grabbed the, you grabbed the foot and then you just pulled and this crazy looking creature came out. [00:27:00] So I got pretty good at it.
Scott Brady: And then how do you cook that?
Brian McVickers: So they're really really tough. So you need to tenderize them. They've got like the muscle itself, which is the animal. It has this weird skin on it, so you slice it and then the skin peels right off. You're kind of... you're left with this big piece of meat that kind of looks like a chicken breast and you...
Scott Brady: Does it taste like chicken?
Brian McVickers: No, it doesn't. It tastes like Conch, and you can prepare it a hundred different ways. But you've got to, you've got to really beat the heck out of it. You gotta tenderize it in order to really get it to taste good. We ate it all the time.
Scott Brady: So beyond the fishing and these basic staples, what did you typically fill your days with for two years of traveling around the Caribbean?
Brian McVickers: So if you're making a passage between islands or, or longer distances, you're really focused on sailing. When you're sailing like that, you're really focusing on, you know, getting the boat to [00:28:00] go as fast as you can for the conditions. I say that in a different way too, because racing a sailboat, you're really trying to go as fast as you can and you're pushing the system. You're pushing the boat as hard as you can when you're cruising and exploring and living, aboard that boat becomes your, everything, and, and so that it's self-preservation becomes a priority as well. So you're trying to sell fast, but you're trying to, you know, have some mechanical sympathy on the entire system because it has to last you a long, long time. So you're focusing on sailing, you're focusing on navigation. We didn't have a really whizzbang electronic navigation system. I think we had… we didn't have a chart plotter. So we had a, we had a nice GPS system, but we use paper charts and we would take a reading every hour and so when we were under underway, we would take a reading every hour, and so we would do the good old map and compass, and your parallel rules and your... just plot it right there on the map, and we still have all the charts. Which is really fun, I kept them. So [00:29:00] then you're planning out your Anchorage, you're planning out where to go, and then once you get to an island or wherever you're going to make landfall, you'd go and explore and so we'd do a lot of hiking. We would do a lot of just kind of going into the small towns and spending time kind of getting to know the locals because we would go someplace, and we would spend two to four weeks somewhere. And so after, you know, after a week, the locals start to look at you like, well you're not going anywhere. So they start to befriend you a little bit more. Then after two, three weeks, you’re walking through town and you know, everybody's name and you kind of become... you're still a visitor, but you're a little bit more a part of the community. So I think it's, you're no longer a, you're no longer a tourist and you're a little bit more of a traveler.
Scott Brady: Sure. That's always the goal.
Brian McVickers: It is. So we really enjoyed that aspect of it, but there were days where we would wake up in the morning and you kind of say, well what do you want for lunch, and we'd get in the dinghy and we'd go fish and spear fish and get lunch and dinner. And then that was your thing, you know?
Scott Brady: [00:30:00] And then just that amount of quality time together with your wife. I mean, it just had to form an inseparable bond. Either it was going to be something that you got done with the trip and you realize I don't really want to be with this person. Or you realize that, yeah, this is the person I want to be with the rest of my life.
Brian McVickers: Absolutely. It was a 36-foot sailboat, which, you know, is living space. That probably turned it into a 20-foot tube and so it's not a lot of living space.
Scott Brady: Conex box basically.
Brian McVickers: Yeah. It's like living in a Conex. It's a luxurious Conex, but that was the amount of space on it.
Scott Brady: What was the beam on it?
Brian McVickers: I think, so it's 36 foot long. I think it had a 12-foot beam.
Scott Brady: So a little bit wider than a Conex.
Brian McVickers: Yeah. So you'd go down below and there was a nice couch on either side and then a V berth, which is like a master state room up in the front. Literally shaped like a V. And so that's where we would primarily sleep in the V birth and that was our bedroom. And we had a, you know, there was a chest of drawers built into the boat and a nice closet and a nice bathroom and you knew everything about each other pretty quickly.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it was great talking [00:31:00] specifically about cruising in that area. What was the most challenging thing that happened for Amy and you during that trip? And then also, what was the thing that you brought, you took away as the most endearing, like your, maybe your favorite moment? What was your most challenging moment? What was your most favorite moment from that cruise?
Brian McVickers: good questions. Try not to think about it too much in the sense of time, but you know, I think some of the weather could get pretty challenging. We had a few, we had a few instances where the weather was pretty rough. We had one storm that knocked us down. We had a full knockdown where that puts the, puts the spreader. So the spreader tip went into the water, so keel boat, most of the time they're going to pop back up. And it did, you know, we recovered from it pretty, pretty quickly. You know, we got knocked down, we rounded up and it was over in an instant. But while it was happening, it was in slow motion and it was, yeah, it was pretty good. I mean, [00:32:00] when you race dinghies, that happens all the time. So you're used to the boat either capsizing or near capsizing, and you're used to that movement of the boat. It usually doesn't happen with a big keel boat. So when it did. My instincts went right back to racing dinghies. And we rounded up and we popped out of it and we kept on sailing while it was happening. It was probably more terrifying, five minutes after it had happened. Cause you, you, do you realize what just happened? When it was happening, you're just like, oh here's how you.
Scott Brady: Right. So when you say rounding up, you just spin the wheel, basically to get the boat to turn.
Brian McVickers: You head up into the wind and luckily the spreader went into the water, the sail never went into the water. I mean, at the sale it touched the water, but what can really happen to make that a really dangerous situation is when the main sale was to go enough into the water that now it's scooping water, because now it becomes a big water weight. And then it's going to hold [00:33:00] you down and then if it holds you down, now, you're going to have water start to come into the boat. It's going to come in and that if the water gets up over the hatchway and goes down below. Then it's really, really bad. But we were able to, you know, we blew the main sheet, let it out all the way, headed up into the wind and popped right out of it. So it was, it was very eventful, but it was, it was, you know, resolved pretty quickly.
Scott Brady: You told me another story about waking up in the morning and stepping into a foot or so of water in the bottom of the boat.
Brian McVickers: Oh yeah. We almost sank twice.
Scott Brady: So the rounding up was the worst one and the two near sinkings were incidentally.
Brian McVickers: The two near signings were incidental. One, one near sinking. We were underway, and it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we were on a port tack. We were at a nice, you know, broad reach and we were, I think we were doing eight and a half knots and we were just ripping along for that boat. It was fast and just, everything was perfect. And when we were underway like that, [00:34:00] we always had our alarm set for 20 minutes, every 20 minutes, we would check gauges, you know, look around the boat, check for any problems and you got into such a rhythm of it that it was good to maintain and prevent bad things from happening. This was such a beautiful day that I think we actually started to fall asleep in the cockpit while we're just ripping along. It was gorgeous, so then one of us wanted a drink of water or something and we went downstairs, and we stepped into probably shin deep water. And we're like, oh, we got a problem. So we turned on all the bilge pumps and got the water evacuated pretty quickly in under five minutes and then I think we had had three or four bilge pumps on that boat. Redundancy and bilge pumps for sailboats is a great idea and we even had a bilge pump built into the engine where we had a lever that you could convert the raw water intake for the engine yeah. So instead of pulling from the ocean to cool the engine you're pulling from the bilge and your engine just became a huge bilge pump.
Scott Brady: That's brilliant. So you use the water [00:35:00] pump of the engine...
Brian McVickers: To evacuate Bilge, and that really makes it fast cause that's a lot of horsepower bilge pump. So you throw that over and then you, and then you've got to you've got to monitor it and put it back to raw water before you go dry on the bilge. But that was a great fail safe for us. And then we just started looking for where the water's coming from and it turned out that it was just one of ours, it was actually coming from a bilge pump hose. It was looped way up to be an anti-siphon but the heel of the boat and the angle of the sail everything kind of worked out perfectly to actually put that loop underwater while we were sailing at that particular, you know, all those situations, the water just came right back in through the bilge pump. And then I think after that I installed check valves and everything.
Scott Brady: So like a one-way valve.
Brian McVickers: A one-way valve. Yeah. That's how I figured that out.
Scott Brady: So then what was that.... maybe it was also that magical moment too, of sailing that way. But when you think back on all of that time and the [00:36:00] time on the islands and with the locals and everything else, what was the one thing that Amy and you look back on like that was literally magic?
Brian McVickers: I think it was an opportunity to meet and spend time with people, you know, people that we normally wouldn't get to experience in, you know, say your regular day to day. Right? So we found the people that lived in the Caribbean to be gracious and very hospitable and welcoming. It gave us a lot of appreciation for a lot of the things that we you're coming from Chicago as a big city and everything's at your fingertips and now you're in an environment where you're meeting people who live in the, in the Caribbean full time and again, it was 20 years ago, so it was a different place, and they waited for the Mail Boat to come around once a week and they were very self-sufficient and, you know, the mail boat is also the supply boat, and then they kind of subsist on fishing and then they get hit with hurricanes once a year.[00:37:00]
Scott Brady: Shockingly, they are all a lot happier. It seems like the people in a big city.
Brian McVickers: Yeah, yeah. There was a lot of comparison to that in many ways. Yeah, that was one of the things we really enjoyed was just to get to meet different people from around the world. And you'd meet people who they had sailed over from Europe, and they had done an Atlanta crossing, or they'd been out just circumnavigating and they're out, they're true travelers. Then you'd also meet the people who were down there on vacation, and they had chartered a boat for a week. Those people that did that. They were approaching their experience completely differently.
Scott Brady: Right. Much more on the schedule.
Brian McVickers: They were on the schedule. They had their list of experiences that they wanted, and they were kind of expecting all those experiences and they're kind of going down the checklist and moving, you know, at a hundred miles an hour where we were just on a day to day take what you got. Experience it that way.
Scott Brady: Sure. So bringing kind of this idea of cruising full circle back to Overland travel, which is something that [00:38:00] you've also done a lot of, what comparisons would you draw between sailboat cruising and overlanding and also what things did you learn in sailboat cruising that you think really translated well to Overland travel that really actually prepared you to do well in a vehicle as well?
Brian McVickers: Yeah, I think, you know, one of the main comparisons that I've always made to, you know, vehicle based overlanding and vehicle based adventure to exploring by boat, whether it's a sailboat or a motorboat is I think in some ways overlanding is easier when it comes to preparation and dealing with adverse situations and part of the reason is let's say you get a flat tire in your truck. You can stop, you can get out. You can walk around, you can, you can allow your environment to stop. You know what we used to say, you know, brew a cup of tea and then deal with the problem and then as you said, you had just experienced, you know, crossing the Pacific, there's no stopping. There's no getting out of the car. [00:39:00]
Scott Brady: If the car catches on fire, you can run away from it. If the Boat catches on fire... you're swimming in the middle of the ocean.
Brian McVickers: So, you know, it's a completely different environment. So you're surrounded by water. You can't just step off, take a walk. The boat is in constant motion. Even if you were to, to, to heave two, which is a way of kind of putting a sailboat into a safety position where it's not it's not getting, it's kind of like hitting pause but even going into safety position and going and heaving to you're still moving, and your steel is still dealing with that type of environment, and so when dealing with adverse situations, whether it be on a racing boat or a cruising boat. When I get to overlanding and bad stuff happens, I'm like, well, this is easy. Right. Because I know that, you know, I'm likely not going to die, whereas on a boat I'm like, oh, there's more of a chance I'm going to die.
Scott Brady: And also, we're land-based humans, right? I mean, we're, we're designed, we're [00:40:00] made to operate on the land and in the water, we're very much a fish out of water. And because of that, even when we stopped in the middle of the Pacific, during the crossing we were completely called. The Pacific was this giant swimming pool and we decided to all jump off the boat. I remember I jumped into the Pacific. Actually it was probably the second or third time that I jumped in, but I decided to really dive in. So I dove as deep as I could get. And this boat's far off the water. So it was pretty, and I was up on, and I was up on the lifeline rail, and I jumped in probably 10 feet above the water. So, and I remember diving in and plunging and within moments, I went from this very warm, very pool- like surface to a getting rapidly colder and seeing all of the light ray’s kind of descending down into the depths of this blackness. This transition from this light, very turquoise blue to this darker blue to, [00:41:00] to total darkness down below me. I realized very quickly that I am, I don't belong. I don't belong here...I can't survive here, and it wasn't a bad feeling. It was more of just this recognition about how powerful the ocean is and about how small we are and even on a 52-foot expedition class sailboat, we were very, very small and we were very, very vulnerable. Of course I liked that because it's, yeah, it's how I see the world and it's how I choose to experience the world. It was also very real that in a vehicle you can hit the pause button, or even if you are moving around and you're solving problems, you're doing it in an environment that's totally natural for a human to do it in. Whereas if you're having to dive in to change out a prop, or if you're having to dive in and fix the rudder, or if you're having to dive in and do some other repair to the boat in the middle of the ocean, that's a very foreign place to be.
Brian McVickers: Literally out of your element. Yeah. I think it gives you an appreciation. For [00:42:00] the different situations that you could be in. But you know, when, when we dove in, when it was, you know, it was a mirror. That was 16,000 feet of water. Right. Which is, which is crazy to try to comprehend.
Scott Brady: And I was trying to remember, we were close to a thousand miles from Hawaii, and we were definitely a thousand miles from Alaska and the shore of California. We were way out there. I mean, it was just about in the middle of, well we were in that Pacific high.
Brian McVickers: Really the only thing that I can... when overlanding, the only thing that I've only time I've ever really felt that same, that same feeling of, remoteness and a dependence on your vehicle and is when you're crossing a desert, a lot of places we Overland you've got, you know, the temperatures, the terrain, you could, you could hike out if you really needed to, you know, you could walk you, it might take you a couple of days to walk back to where you came from, but you can do it. Crossing deserts, you know, even if it was just a couple of years ago, we went and did the Altar desert down in Mexico. And [00:43:00] you get to a point where you realize that if you need to walk out, you're probably not going to make it. It's too far, the conditions, you're going to get exhausted, trying to walk through the sand. The heat is going to get you before anything else. That was that same feeling that you get, where you realize that that vehicle is your lifeline, like a traveling sailboat, it'd be your lifeline in the ocean.
Scott Brady: Any of the Arctic or the polar stuff is very similar.
Brian McVickers: Absolutely. You know, when you're, when you're driving across the Greenland Ice Sheet, that's probably worse than the desert as far as survivability.
Scott Brady: It's a rare situation, that was probably as close as I felt to that remoteness of being in the middle of the Pacific. So it's interesting comparing the two, because I did notice also on the boat that there were these daily inspections, which is something that I've learned is so important with vehicle based overlanding is that before you start your day, when you're still in camp, you check the vehicle out, you crawl underneath it, you go through your [00:44:00] inspection, you check your fluids, you check your systems to make sure that everything is working properly before you head out for the day of travel. And it's amazing what you find when you do those daily inspections and that's something that we did religiously on the boat, and we were, we were so lucky to have Kevin Ryan along. I mean, cause that is a wizard. He's literally, for those that are listening, if you ever wanted to build an expedition sailboat, this is the guy to call and what's the name of his business?
Brian McVickers: Outbound Yacht Services in Dana Point.
Scott Brady: Yeah. I mean he's truly amazing at that whole process. I mean, he impressed me not only as a mechanic and as an upfitter, but also as a traveling companion as well. Everybody on the trip was just wonderful, but it was really interesting to see how Kevin's mind worked in the same way that we have to solve problems with Overland travel as well. So I thought the daily inspections were really important. And then we also had these weekly routines of going through and changing filters and checking on the desalinator. [00:45:00] So when you do a deeper dive into these systems that we rely on a day-to-day basis, a daily inspection is really just a quick check of all of the critical systems on the vehicle. Then you have these weekly checks where you're actually looking at the batteries, you're actually checking connections. You're actually pulling out the voltmeter and making sure that things are working properly on the vehicle. You have a list of systems that you're going to go down and check, and that's what we had to do on the boat. I found that that was a great reminder of how that vigilance is so important when we get really remote. So I think that was really big.
Brian McVickers: It is. It's a form of preventative maintenance and it really helps you to catch the problems before they get too big. If they're developing at all, that brings back the similarities. One of the things I've always found was a similarity between a sailboat and an expedition grade sailboat, and an Overland vehicle. They're usually 12-volt system based. You have a confined amount of space. So the gear that you bring with you is limited. Amount [00:46:00] of weight that you can bring with you is limited, because just as you want you don't want to overload an overlanding vehicle to optimize performance, you don't want to overload a sailboat to optimize performance.
Scott Brady: Yeah, when we left long beach, I mean, we were right at the pretty heavy,
Brian McVickers: We had five guys with all the gear, including mountaineering gear, cause you know, to go play on land and skis and snowboards and surfboards.
Scott Brady: And I think we had enough food for four years.
Brian McVickers: We had three months of dehydrated food for five people. Right. Which is a lot of food.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Well that was just the dehydrated food. Plus we had all of the other food that we brought.
Brian McVickers: A lot of canned food. We had a lot.
Scott Brady: I'm not complaining cause we ate great and once we started catching fish, then life got really, really good.
Brian McVickers: We were eating sushi every day.
Scott Brady: It was so amazing.
Brian McVickers: But planning for the electrical even cause you know, in the vehicle, it's kinda like when you're pulling [00:47:00] into camp and you're calculating the amount, how big your battery should be and what type of power you should have to run your fridge and maybe charge your computer and your cameras and all that. We had the same thing on the boat because you know, when you're sailing, if the wind is good enough and the conditions are good enough, you're sailing just under sail. We had a wind generator and we had...
Scott Brady: That only gives, you know, what was it? 8, 10, 12, 15 amps, something like that?
Brian McVickers: At the peak. It's about 15 amps. So that's really good wind, you know, in 20 knots of wind, you're getting that we had a hydro generator which was, I think, really cool.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Five, six amps. It wasn't much out of that.
Brian McVickers: Yeah. But that's one of the reasons we worked with Battleborn batteries, and we put in a whole new battery bank into the boat in preparation for the demands that we were going to have. Cause we were not only running all the electronics on the boat radars. We had a satellite antenna. So we had constant internet access on the boat. Granted it was low speed. But the power consumption [00:48:00] overall demanded a new system and that's where the Battleborn batteries really, really shine.
Scott Brady: It seemed that the advantage of lithium for sailing is. Again, there's more energy density for the same space. And then you've also gained the advantage of a lot less weight. So as I recall, you guys had about a 40% increase in the total available amperage, and you actually gained some space back on the boat. I remember Kevin showing me the space and it was, it was just really optimized because of being able to move towards Lithium's.
Brian McVickers: We had more, more power with a smaller footprint.
Scott Brady: Really, really impressive to see how that all worked. And we needed all of that because again, five people were charging devices, running all of the garment navigation systems that we had on the boat, of which there were multiples of those. We actually started playing around with, if you turn this on. I mean, if you turn on the water heater, the electric water heater, that was, it started hammering 110 amps. Whereas if it was just the basic [00:49:00] navigation of the boat with a lot of the screens turned off, we could get down to 12, 14, 15 amps total.
Brian McVickers: You can take it down to a trickle.
Scott Brady: Yeah, exactly. And that was really, that was really cool to see, and again, came back so much to the Overland side of things as well. That also brings this whole idea of the expedition sailing and the fact that crossing oceans feels a lot like crossing continents and there are similarities and there are differences. One of the big benefits of the boat is you have a lot of hot water. So we could actually take... that part of it was luxurious to take very, very comfortable showers, very comfortable sleeping, and a huge galley to prepare great food. So we all chipped in to make these great meals and we were catching fish, which is, again we're not typically able to collect game when we're on land overlanding. Whereas when you're out in the sailboat, you're, you're taking this amazing bounty from the ocean.
Brian McVickers: Well, there are [00:50:00] people who. Yeah, they incorporate some form of hunting or fishing into their overlanding, but it's just, you have to stop to do it. Where we were, we were trolling a couple of lines for the entire time and you know, every couple of days you get the gift of a tuna, it was incredible, and I never had to stop to really deal with it.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Bluefin today, Yellowfin tomorrow and then you guys ended up... I stepped off in Dutch Harbor, which incidentally happens to be where they filmed the deadliest catch and these other, these other shows and we made it to the Bering Sea and then you guys continued on and talk a little bit about what were some of the highlights of cruising along the Aleutians
Brian McVickers: So the Aleutians are... I think it's a very unique place on the planet. If you were to look at a map, a lot of people don't know the Aleutians by name, but if you were to look at a map and see a picture of Alaska, it’s got that sweeping tail that goes off to the west. That sweeping tail is the Aleutian Island chain, [00:51:00] and it goes out, I want to say 800 miles from an 800 or a thousand miles from the Alaskan peninsula. So from Prince William Sound, you're out another call a thousand miles to Attu Island to be the last island in the Aleutian chain. That's part of the United States.
Scott Brady: And it's on the other side of the international Dateline.
Brian McVickers: It is so it has two geographic significant qualities. It's at one time... So it's the furthest west point in the United States and at the same time, it's the furthest Eastern most point in the United States in the other hemisphere. So it's got those two things about it,
Scott Brady: the other side of the Dateline, and then, so that makes Alaska the furthest north of, for this east and the furthest west. Right?
Brian McVickers: So we crossed the international Dateline twice going there, which was pretty neat, and it was interesting to see the different mapping programs and everything. And I remember we had a, we were all running Garment and Reaches and when we got to the international [00:52:00] Dateline, we fell off the edge of the earth because the Garmin Map stopped.
Scott Brady: Because it's flat, right?
Brian McVickers: When you sail, you learn that the earth is flat and so... We actually took the great circle route to get up to the Berring sea which in itself is a pretty amazing calculation of navigation. So it proves that going in an arc is faster and shorter than going in a straight line. Oh, interesting. So we navigated by the great circle route, but yeah, with the Garmin PC, you fell off the map and you had to scroll. All the way back east, past Russia to see yourself to get back, get back on the map. So I thought that was interesting.
Scott Brady: Well you got to the other side of the flat earth, when you did that.
Brian McVickers: You just turn the page, turn the page over. So the other significance of Attu island is that it was during world war II, it was invaded by the Japanese and it was actually occupied, occupied by the Japanese. [00:53:00] And so there was a war that now kind of referred to as the Silent War the, yeah, I think the forgotten war, and so there was a war being fought in the Aleutian islands during world war two, that at the time that it was happening. The U S government denied that it was happening. But then after, you know, I mean it only took about two months and then they kind of said, yeah, here's what's going on. But it was pretty devastating to the Aleutians in the sense that a lot of the native population that lived in the Aleutian islands was taken away. They were taking power camps in Japan and then others were evacuated to the United States, but that wasn't really, or the United States mainland. But that really wasn't any better because their living conditions that they were put in were nearly impossible. So, you know, some people got to move back, but you know, right now Attu is uninhabited. There's a small naval base or it's more like a US coast guard base in [00:54:00] Masker Bay. That was abandoned in 2010. And so we got to see that firsthand and that was quite bizarre, and then we got to explore the island quite a bit. We'd go for hikes every day that we were there and then and then we went around the corner to a bay called Holtz bay which is really... it's gotta be one of the most spectacular anchorages I've ever been in. It's a wonderful holding bottom, kind of a muddy clay. So it's great for anchoring and then you're surrounded on three sides by these wonderful big mountains with snow at the top. Well, one of the things out there is that it's foggy every day, and you know, if it's not foggy, you wait about 30 minutes and it's foggy and then you wait another 30 minutes if the fog goes away and then it's just cycles. So Holtz bay is where we went skiing and so you could look up in the mountains and there's snow everywhere and we were really, really late in the season for it. But we were able to find a couple of Cars that still had snow in them, and we were able to hike up and get some turns in. [00:55:00] So it's August you know, August skiing and acting on Attu island in the middle of the Aleutians or at the end of the Aleutians.
Scott Brady: And I remember you telling me a story that you went down below and you come back up top and a couple of the guys on the boat, they've got all their ice axes and they got all their crampons and everything and they're getting into the dinghy to go to go climb up an iceberg. Then what changed their mind?
Brian McVickers: So this was, this was out in front of the Columbia and the Columbia glacier is the fastest moving glacier. At least in the United States, possibly unsure about that. But that's over in Prince William Sound. You get the idea that by the time we get to this point in the trip, we were all very comfortable with risk. We were getting towards the end of the trip, we were getting closer.
Scott Brady: Two months almost, right?
Brian McVickers: Yeah. About two months of a trip and we were getting closer to populated areas. We were getting closer to the end of the trip. So the risk factor was going down because when you're out in the Aleutians, you're completely on your own where we were at the Columbia glacier. You could be in Valdez on a [00:56:00] day and so I came up on deck. I went down to get a... we're going to do a drone flight. So I went down and got the drone ready and I came up and a couple of guys had life jackets and ice axes in their hands and they were holding their crampons. Cause they're going to put the crampons on their boots in a minute, and they're lowering the dinghy and they're three minutes away from kind of going off towards this iceberg that was floating and mind you, these are really bad ideas. Like this is stuff that you just don't do you really...
Scott Brady: If you survive them, they're great.
Brian McVickers: They're great ideas. What a cool picture right? But they're really bad ideas and so as they were about to step into the dinghy this 15 foot section of this iceberg, just calved off and crashed into the water and it sounded like thunder and it sent a wave towards the boat and these guys, they couldn't get their life jackets off fast enough and they're like, okay, we're not doing that.
Scott Brady: Change of plans.
Brian McVickers: Change of plans. Oh, but when we were up there, you know, we would see, we'd see whales. [00:57:00] Two or three different types of whales. We saw it. We got not intentionally close, but just based on the trajectories of where we were both going, you know, the boat was on one course and we looked off to the left and there were three killer whales who was I'm assuming that it was a set of parents and a, and a baby and a, you could see the baby was this tiny little killer whale. Then there was a kind of a medium sized Orca next to it. And then there was a big Orca kind of, you know, flanking them moving around and kind of guarding. We just kind of started to converge naturally. We probably got about 50 yards away from one another and then the biggest Orca, which we've kind of assumed that it's dad, maybe it was mama. Don't know much about killer whales, but the tail went up and it just went smack, smack, smack on the water, and all of us were like, okay, we need to leave. Like, it was a clear warning that we were too close. So they went in the other direction, and we went in the other [00:58:00] direction, but that was, that was a pretty neat encounter. So there's birds everywhere, constant, you know, surrounded by birds the entire time. A lot of whales feeding and then a lot of good fishing, you know, we were in an anchorage, and we had set anchor. We were only there for 20 minutes or so and rusty had thrown out a lure on a rod. It's a little jig, it looked like a crappie jig, you know, something that you'd kind of get panfish with. He hooked into something, and it just wouldn't stop pulling and we'd get it a little bit closer and then it would run. We were like, this thing is pretty big. We don't know what it is, and we got it up and he was trying to figure out where the fish was because we saw something in the water, but he didn't look like a fish. We were expecting this old panfish or something that we pulled up a 125-pound Halibut, and it was so big that we had to put it in the dinghy to clean it cause we couldn't bring it up on the boat cause it was so big. It was about 125 pounds. We got about 80 pounds of fish, an incredible 80 pounds of meat off of that [00:59:00] fish and we ate it for a month, still had some leftovers at the end of the trip. And we, and then not only that, but we started trading it along the way because we couldn't catch salmon very well, but we had all his halibut, and we'd trade the salmon fishermen for Halibut.
Scott Brady: Hey, that's what it comes down to is great. Nothing wrong with bartering. So looking back at two months on crossing the Pacific, and of course the goal is to stage the boat and then move up to the Bering Sea through the Bering Strait and into the Northwest passage and hopefully cross over the top of Canada. But at this point in the journey, what were some of your key takeaways from that? What were the things that you really learnt, maybe that surprised you, things that relate to overlanding that you think are really important mindsets to have?
Brian McVickers: Yeah. I think the thing that stands out to all of them, You know, the five of us that were involved including yourself was the team. We never had any arguments. We never had any blow ups. We never had any emotional breakdowns. It doesn't mean that every day [01:00:00] was sunshine and unicorns, but, you know, we never had any issues. You know, at least personally shoes with five people living in those confined quarters. So everybody was on their game. Everybody was, you know, part of the objective. Everybody really was interested in working together as a team. And I think that that was a really big takeaway, because whether you're doing an expedition on land or on the, on ice or in a desert, or, you know, through the forest, that teamwork is critical, you know, for an overlanding trip, it becomes even more critical because you've got multiple... usually multiple vehicles that usually involve multiple ownership of different vehicles. Trying to get everybody with the same objective, right. On a boat. You've got the same objective because you're all going to the same place.
Scott Brady: Unless you mutiny. Right? I guess that's what happened hundreds of years ago, people were like, actually that island over there, it looks really good right now.
Brian McVickers: Yeah. I've been on an expedition with three or four trucks, you know, if somebody wants to leave one day and go drive the other direction, they [01:01:00] can't and that creates a lot of... that becomes an issue depending on where you're at and what you're doing. So the people involved I think are pretty critical and also learning to be that close to other people for that amount of time and, you know, just be cool about everything and be...
Scott Brady: Yeah, give people space and start to learn. What makes them feel a little bit better? You can tell that they're off a little bit. We always were checking in on each other. We did weekly med checks as well, which I think was really important. Josh would make some insane elk sausage burrito and hand it up to you into the cockpit while you're on watch.
Brian McVickers: All your worries went away.
Scott Brady: It's literally, it was literally like magic, and everybody was mindful in that way. Rusty would make fresh bread or Kevin would, would handle something on the boat that made life that much easier and everybody was really mindful, and I think that that was one of the takeaways that I had was if you take care of the boat and if you take care of each [01:02:00] other, your chances of success are very high and that certainly applies to Overlanding as much as it does of sailing. So one of the things that I love to ask on these podcasts and I have a thousand more questions that I should be asking you even about your Overland trips, but one of the things that I love to ask is kind of what top couple books that you have read in the last couple of decades that really stood out to you. Something even recently that you read.
Brian McVickers: Yeah. You know, that's not a good answer for that question, you know, as much as I should read, I'm not a big reader.
Scott Brady: That's okay, too.
Brian McVickers: Yeah. You know, for example, I think everybody else on this past trip that we just got done doing, you know, you were on the boat for a month and you read a dozen books.
Scott Brady: Five printed books and three audio books.
Brian McVickers: Okay. Yeah. I read one and a half books in two months and everybody else was in that eight to 10 or plus range. And so I just, I don't read a lot. I tend to [01:03:00] consume written material in smaller chunks.
Scott Brady: But I do remember on the boat to your defense, that when we were getting closer to the islands, or if there was something that we needed to prepare for, like, we were doing some training to prepare us for bad weather, you are deep into the, into the books about how to do that. So it seems like nonfiction, technical volumes have a lot of appeal to you.
Brian McVickers: I would agree with that. You know, I like sailing and even for overlanding. It's, you know, there's, there's certain books that you can turn to that they've got all the answers and you can go in and get what you need and then, and then get out. You're not necessarily reading a book for a week. So, you know, I've got a whole collection of Marine, sailing, expedition books, you know, a lot of Chapman type stuff. Who's an author and a number of others that are, they're very specific, right? There's the weather book, and I have the anchoring book
Scott Brady: The anchoring book is insane. It was a giant book about anchoring. [01:04:00]
Brian McVickers: It's gotta be two inches thick. It's all about how to anchor.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it was so cool.
Brian McVickers: Most people think you just throw the anchor over. That's far from the truth. We were on Kiska Island, and we were anchored there, and we had just gotten in and we were getting ready to go to shore and we were going to go, there were two ponds that we were going to go fish these ponds for salmon, and the weather turned and all of a sudden we've got... I think it was, well the weather turned and we just kind of hunkered down. So we decided not to go ashore. Then we only had a single anchor down and then we woke up at 2:30 in the morning and it was blowing 40 knots and the anchor was dragging. And so we spent, you know, we all got right on it, and we all knew what to do and we rigged a second anchor which now stays rigged all the time. And we had meant to have it rigged all the time, but we just hadn't gotten to it yet. So no better time, 2:30 in the morning in the dark with sideways rain that literally stung my face. So we rigged the second anchor, we put the second anchor out and then we had the anchor watch the rest of the day for the next 12 hours or so. [01:05:00] But you know, it's those little skills that you learn by reading those books, you know? So I like to dive into a book, get what I want and need out of it and then it'll do it, go do it and get on with it. Right? So I don't sit around and read novels.
Scott Brady: It's okay. Yeah. No, there's,
Brian McVickers: There's a lot of value to that. I always wish that I would read more and never quite do. I know you
Scott Brady: went and sailed the Caribbean for years. Right? So one of the things that I always really liked to ask in this podcast is what kind of advice would you, or what would be the number one piece of advice that you would give someone that was looking at going and doing cruise, sailing, or living on a sailboat or looking to travel around the world in a vehicle? What would you tell them?
Brian McVickers: You know, I think that the most immediate thing that comes to mind is to make the decision to go and then go and don't get hung up on everything that's going to hold you back. And it's really easy to do because, you know, adult life has a [01:06:00] lot of different things that it throws at you. But if you can make the decision to go and that allows yourself, so you've made the decision. Now you can start the planning and I think a critical part of the planning is training. You know, we all know how to drive a vehicle. Most people know how to drive a vehicle.
Scott Brady: That's saying a lot.
Brian McVickers: Yeah. We're, we're all the best drivers in the world. A lot of people know how to drive a vehicle in the sense of, you know, they can make it go straight down the road, maybe, but you know, you want to get some training on, you know, how do you drive a four wheel drive vehicle properly, you know, on the trail and, and deal with adverse conditions and then that's just going to keep you safer in preserve the vehicle and it's gonna allow you to travel further similarly, and maybe a little bit more important is learning how to sail, because you know, we've all grown up, you know, in cars or trucks being driven, you know, you grew up watching your parents drive the vehicle, and it kind of comes, you know, pretty intuitively [01:07:00] not the same for a sailboat. The sailboat has a little bit riskier consequences for messing up, and so, you know, take a, take a sailing class. I'd suggest if you can try to learn how to sail dinghies before you worry about sailing, bigger boats, the dinghies. Going to teach you a lot more, a lot faster, because they're much more responsive. Everything you do on a dinghy has an immediate reaction. So you learn how to manage a boat much more efficiently if you start learning on dinghies. Then from there, you learn about big boats and the big boats tend to have, you know, more systems and they're also more powerful. So there are certain things you have to be careful of. And so, you know, kind of graduate into a bigger boat. There's lots of classes available for kids. So there's junior sailing programs all over the country and there's lots of adult sailing programs around the country as well, and you know, as an example, there's lots of great benefits in being part of an adult sailing [01:08:00] program. You get to meet somebody as amazing as my wife, and so there's really good things about those and you can find them in Colorado, you can find them on the coast. You can find them in Chicago. They're really all over the country. Whether it's through a club. Or a yacht club, there's even a sailing program in Phoenix, Arizona which is in the middle of the desert. So lots of opportunities to learn and then from there, you know, if you're to buy a sailboat, it's like buying... approach the same way that if you were to properly approach buying an Overland vehicle, you know, figure out where you intend to go, the type of sailing that you intend to do and then there's different boats that are going to provide a better solution for the different environments that you plan to be in. If you're going to go. Into the Arctic, you're talking about high latitude sailing and, and the conditions are much different than if you're going to go to the Caribbean and they're different than if you were to go sail on the coast in Texas or off the coast of San Diego. You know, all those different areas [01:09:00] are going to have different demands on a sailboat, you can spend $5,000 on a sailboat that you're going to have a ton of fun with, and it could take you out to Catalina island off the coast of California and back and forth and you could have a wonderful time or you could throw it on a trailer and, take it down to the sea Cortez, or you could take it to your local lake and go sailing and have fun.
Scott Brady: You're right, when you think about it compared to vehicles, you could take a clapped-out sedan and somehow get your way around the world if you leave with too small of a sailboat without the basic safety features, and you try to sail around the world, it's probably going to be a very different outcome. So that is very true, and I remember actually, as you were saying about the training, I remembered one of the first times that I talked to you about sailing. You're like, yeah, you should go do this sailing class. I said I want to just get on a boat, and I just want to go do it. That's how I'm gonna learn. I'm just going to go do it. I remember you laughing at me just like you are... and I'm so glad I got, [01:10:00] I got training.
Brian McVickers: And it didn't take much. You took a basic US adult sailing class.
Scott Brady: The Colgate school, I think is what it was.
Brian McVickers: It was maybe a weekend.
Scott Brady: Yeah, it was a long, it was a long weekend. Because we also did, we went all the way up to two bareboat, so yeah.
Brian McVickers: And you had some bookwork to go along with it, but it was an introductory sailing class. Then you had the opportunity to go on a trip. Granted, there's not a lot of people who get to go on a Pacific crossing. Well, you got, you know, years and years of the typical sailing experience condensed into a month. Your skill level advanced very quickly. So, you can still achieve a level of competency to be able to go and either charter a boat, say from the moorings or another charter boat company, you know, down in Caribbean and the Virgin Islands even off the coast, California, there's lots of charter boat companies that you, you really don't need a whole lot of experience to charter a boat. You need to have a credit card [01:11:00] and then they'll pretty much give you the boat. You know, but for your own safety, you want to have adequate training.
Scott Brady: Sometimes those, sometimes those systems stop working and then you need to be able to have a chart and you need to be able to use a compass to navigate.
Brian McVickers: Not only that, but, you know, there's, I think the one thing... The biggest differentiator between overlanding in a vehicle and exploring by a sailboat is the weather, your Overland vehicle. It really isn't dependent on the web. You can drive it through a rainstorm. You can kind of go where you want, or you could park it. You could stop, you could park it. You'd be just fine. Everything about sailing is contingent upon the weather, every piece of the weather, whether it's the wind speed, the waves, the height of the waves, the sea state. I mean, the duration between waves, currents, tides, all these things that you take for granted on land are going to influence the sailboat and they're going to influence your travel schedule as well. [01:12:00]
Scott Brady: And I think that's why I really enjoyed sailing so much was it's like overlanding, but way harder and also oddly more comfortable with better food sometimes. So it's really an interesting thing to consider for those that are listening. Please check it out. Kailani Expedition on Instagram, you can see a little bit more about what Brian and I did and fortunately, Rusty Fronz was so generous to bring us along and we had a great crew of Josh and Kevin as well. So check out that adventure, where else can people find more about you and your travels? Brian?
Brian McVickers: Well certainly through ExpeditionPortal.com and Overland Journal and then on Instagram, it's @McVickers on Facebook, I think it's Ryan McVickers and then for this most recent trip, as Scott mentioned, it's @KailaniExpedition on Instagram and then their website is KailaniVoyage.com
Scott Brady: Yeah. It was an amazing journey, Brian, and thank you so much for recommending that. I go, it was, it was a [01:13:00] life-changing experience. I had my lowest resting heart rate that I had ever recorded on that. So I found immense stillness in the chaos of the seas, and it really was a transformative experience for me and I cannot thank you enough for you and Rusty as well for providing me with that opportunity to go and for those that are listening, as Brian said don't sit in the marina, get in your vehicle or get on your boat and go see the world and we will talk to you next time.