Skip to main content

Catching Up with Wendy Hinman

Some cruisers wait for the perfect boat; others simply go. Wendy Hinman (48) and her husband, Garth Wilcox (52), of Seattle, Washington, paid off their mortgage early and just went.

Some cruisers wait for the perfect boat; others simply go. Wendy Hinman (48) and her husband, Garth Wilcox (52), of Seattle, Washington, paid off their mortgage early and just went. Velella, a 1979 31-foot light-displacement cold-molded cruiser designed by Tom Wylie, reeled off 34,000 miles in seven years, calling on 19 Pacific Rim countries en route. Impressively, the couple thrived on $1,000 a month ($33 a day, not including Velella’s purchase price)—their income coming from odd jobs and renting their home.

While Velella didn’t offer Garth (6ft 1in) standing headroom, her simplicity, her light working loads and her performance-minded design safely delivered the couple home in 2007. They’re now debating their next boat (likely a 38-footer of Garth’s design) and their next voyage (Europe, via the Horn). In the meantime, they’re racing Thunderbirds on Puget Sound, and Wendy recently published her first book, Tightwads on the Loose.


How did you guys get into sailing?

I moved to Hawaii when I was 7, and my parents bought a Cal 27, which we sailed all over the islands. Later, we cruised the Chesapeake on a Catalina 30. It was our family thing—it was a good life. Garth sailed around the world with his family as a teenager and was shipwrecked on a Pacific Island for a year. It was always an unspoken thing that someday we’d have a big adventure on the ocean together.

How did you start off? 

We did a shakedown cruise around Vancouver Island, and then we did the Milk Run [to the South Pacific]—we were usually the smallest boat by at least nine feet. It was fun to [retrace] Garth’s [previous] voyage and to see where he was shipwrecked. 

By the time we got to New Zealand, three-quarters of the people who crossed with us were selling or shipping their boats home. 

You really cruised 34,000 miles on only $33 a day?

Whenever we ran short, we just sailed to an anchorage and went snorkeling for food. If we couldn’t fix our gear, we just found a way to go without it. At one point, we were sharing one light bulb to read. We bought some bad fuel in New Zealand that kept clogging the fuel filter. Even with a new filter it would only run for 10 minutes, so we sailed in and out of most anchorages for months. 

What electronics did you carry?

We had two handheld GPS units, a battery monitor, a laptop and an SSB radio. We had a terrible time with our electronics—they got fried twice, once in the Marquesas and once in the Solomon Islands. So we borrowed a GPS and kept sailing.

Did you have a watermaker?

No. We carried 45 gallons of water, which was good for about three weeks—that’s about one gallon of fresh water per-person per-day. 

Worst experiences?

We were approached by some menacing-looking people in the Philippines, and we also heard and saw some weird stuff at night in both the Philippines and the Solomon Islands. We survived gales in the South China Sea—a nasty patch of water—and several typhoons in port, but the worst storm was the last one, mostly for psychological reasons. We were 18 miles off of Estevan Point on Vancouver Island’s west coast after 46 days of nonstop sailing from Japan, but we were forced to spend three more days at sea. 

What’s next for you?

We plan to venture in the new boat through the canals of Patagonia and Europe. I’d be happy to go again on Velella, but Garth wants to stand up this time!

Photos courtesy of Wendy Hinman

Related

00-LEAD-210918_11HR_AZIMUT48HRS_AMO_00411

11th Hour Racing Team's Green Mission

“I’ll admit, it’s still hard to watch the boat leave the dock sometimes,” says former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Mark Towill. Since meeting during a Transpac campaign over 15 years ago, he and his teammate Charlie Enright have sailed thousands of miles together aboard two Volvo ...read more

D61_JKELAGOPIAN-3

Boat Review: Dufour 61

Dufour, long one of France’s most well-respected builders, has been producing sailboats in La Rochelle since the dawn of fiberglass boatbuilding. Having recently merged with another La Rochelle-based builder, Fountaine Pajot, Dufour has now joined other European mass-production ...read more

m138123_14_00_210609_TORE02_SE_2152_2504-2048x

The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean ...read more

01-LEAD-Ancients-3-2048x

Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the ...read more

01-LEAD-Tablet-Holder-4

Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, ...read more

00-LEAD-AdobeStock_486335954

A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the ...read more

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more

01-LEAD-AdobeStock_40632434

Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to ...read more