Arts and Entertainment

Tightwads, take heart: Couple tell of seven-year cruise on the cheap

Wendy and Garth on Velella. - photo courtesy of Wendy Hinman
Wendy and Garth on Velella.
— image credit: photo courtesy of Wendy Hinman

When Wendy Hinman set sail with her husband Garth, she didn’t know how long she would be gone, or where exactly they would go.

“We had an open-minded plan,” Hinman said. “We thought we would go as long as we could.”

“That’s why we had such a little tiny boat,” she added.

“As long as we could” ended up being seven years at sea. In a mere 31-foot sailboat, the couple traversed 34,000 miles and visited 19 countries.

Their new life at sea started 12 years ago, and they had a loose idea of following a route Garth attempted as a kid. Garth, however, ended up shipwrecked on an island in the Pacific Ocean. The couple tried to visit it during their epic voyage, but discovered it has since been turned into a penal colony.

Still, it was all part of the adventure. The couple explored the sea and its islands, spanning New Zealand to Japan. It was a maritime frontier that instilled a new sense of freedom in Hinman.

“It is just such a great lifestyle,” Hinman said. “It was freedom like I’ve never known before. We weren’t plugged into society. It was really relaxing not to be on a deadline, and we had to follow nature.”

“We had a pretty amazing life for not that much money,” she added. “We were living on like $33 dollars a day. We lived on the rent that our house brought in.”

Sometimes they would fish for their dinner, though, Hinman said they didn’t turn out to be the best fishermen.

Luckily, they were never too far from an island or mainland with supplies.

“We did come across grocery stores, sometimes they were equipped with a Spam-like substance that makes Spam look like high quality, or a Velveeta-like substance,” Hinman said. “In New Zealand they have great grocery stores, and in Mexico.”

They continued to sail as far as they could until an “electrical meltdown” caused the couple to chart a new course.

They were able to make their way to Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands, where they found a U.S. Army base, and jobs.

“I ended up getting a job as a website designer, and my husband, who is a naval architect, got a job as a building engineer,” Hinman said.

The couple spent two years working on the island with the goal of fixing their boat and getting back out on the water. But supplies were slim.

Garth designed and built a contraption from spare parts to lift the boat out of the water in order to work on it.

And with the boat up and running once again, they headed back out onto the water. They made it a few more years before deciding to sail home.

“I really wanted to just keep going. I loved it out there,” Hinman said.

Packed into their seven years at sea are a variety of tales, people and experiences that Hinman can’t help but share. She reveals their sea stories in her new book, “Tightwads on the Loose.”

“The book is about following your dreams,” she said. “It’s a lighthearted look at what it means to go do what you think is interesting and see where it takes you.”

Hinman will speak about her book at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28 at Eagle Harbor Book Co. She will share the lessons she learned from her adventures with her husband.

“You can overcome amazing stuff if you just push through your fears, and your challenges,” she said.

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