Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Distance Shores




Distant Shores: Questions, Answers and a Giveaway!

Paul and Sheryl Shard have "been there, done that and bought the tee-shirt", so to speak.  In fact, they even have video to prove it.  This couple - refreshingly humble despite theirincredible breadth of experience - have been cruising for twenty-three years and are the husband/wife team behind the Distant Shores Sailing Adventure television series.  This ambitious and award winning duo have been making high-quality, professional documentaries since 1989, have logged over 90,000 nautical miles under their keels, completed 5 ocean crossings and have visited over 60 countries.  In other words, this cruising couple is the real dealand in a word, they are the shiz-nit.

After having the pleasure to meet them both here in Grenada (seriously, they are so nice and ooze humility), Paul gave us a couple of DVD's to check out and after having viewed them, I can say that without a doubt these videos should find a place the library of any cruiser or wanna-be water gypsy.  Not only do the Shards offer practical tips on cruising and sailing, but they give great insight into the who's and what's of the places and cultures they visit.  Their videos educate, entertain and inspire...the triumvirate of good television.  Whether you use these videos to prepare yourself for a cruise or simply to ease the minds of worried (but well-meaning) loved ones, they are sure to whet your whistle for living life less ordinary...on the water, of course.

I got Paul and Sheryl to take some time out of their busy editing schedule to answer a few questions because when you meet people that are a) this awesome and b) this experienced, there is only one thing to do: pick their brains.  (SPOILER ALERT:  GIVE AWAY DETAILS AT THE END!)
Ten Questions for Paul and Sheryl Shard

1) What inspired you to start cruising?

Paul and I grew up in families that loved boating and both of us dreamed of doing a long-term voyage in our own boat one day. 

Paul and his family did a lot of serious canoeing expeditions and later houseboating when Paul and his brothers were growing up. My family had a cottage on Lake Simcoe in Ontario, Canada, and we had boats of all shapes and sizes throughout my childhood but no sailboats. Sailing came later for me. So both of us learned to handle boats, navigation, anchoring, route planning and weather forecasting while growing up.

We got seriously interested in sailing and joined the Port Credit Yacht Club on Lake Ontario near Toronto and started crewing for Wednesday night races learning from many different skippers and trying out boats of all sizes to determine what size boat we were comfortable handling together. We did "Cruise and Learn" CYA courses in the North Channel on Georgian Bay, attended every boat show and cruising seminar offered within driving distance of Toronto, chartered in the BVI once we had our qualifications, all the while polishing our navigation skills taking Canadian Power and Sail Squadron courses. We now instruct those courses which is fun when we're home and helped design the CPS "Extended Cruising" course.

2) Why did you decide to start making cruising videos, did you fall into it accidentally or did you see a niche opportunity there?

Our background and training is in film, photo-journalism and theater so it just made sense to us to document our cruising/travel experiences to share with others who might be dreaming of doing the same thing. There were no other shows of this nature at the time and still very few. Sheryl has a Fine Arts degree in Theatre and before cruising she worked as an actress, choreographer, artistic director and Arts & Entertainment reporter for our city paper  Paul's degree is in Computer Science but he worked in film and photography since he was 16. We had an established freelance career when we set sail.

3) Making and editing videos - especially professional quality as yours are - must take a tremendous amount of time and energy.  How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Our life basically is our work since we film and document the cruising life. So I am not sure we have a work/life balance! Just 100% work :-)  But they say "choose a job you love and never work a day in your life". We are very lucky to get to see all that we do as cruising sailors, we like helping others achieve their cruising dreams as well - through our films.

4) You two not only cruise together, you run your business together and share responsibility in making/editing your videos!  You've obviously found a way to work well together despite close quarters and limited "me" time.  What's your advice on how to be a successful husband/wife cruising/business team?

I think the main thing in our favour is that we both absolutely love cruising and the television work we do together so there is no conflict there. Neither of us is sacrificing anything to do what we do, so that helps a lot. We meet a lot of couples cruising where one is living their dream and the other is reluctantly along for the ride which can lead to trouble. 

We do spend a lot of time together but we've known each other a long time (since we were 7 years old) and know when each other needs space or to stop talking or a change of scene or activity, or to blow off steam. We respect that in each other. We both have a very good sense of humour so if things get tense we know how to make each other laugh to diffuse things. We're proud of doing that so are always looking for ways to keep things fun. 

Over the years we've learned how to give each other "me" time even at sea when confined to the boat for long periods - wearing headphones, reading in another part of the boat, getting focused on a project that's of interest to only one of us while the other does something else, that kind of thing.

5) What are three pieces of video equipment the average person could get ahold of that you could not possibly do without?
  1. Keeping the camera steady is very important, especially with smaller video cameras - I recommend a medium size tripod or a monopod for quicker shooting. We use ours all the time. 
  2. Don't forget sound. Capturing good audio is often challenging on a boat, but an external microphone with a windscreen can help. 
  3. Editing is VERY important with video, so I also recommend a nice simple editing program for the computer. We use Final Cut Pro (which is not simple) on the Mac but iMovie is easier to learn and also great, and there are many options for the PC as well.
What three tips would you offer to the beginning videographer?
  1. Look at your shot - keep checking the shot as you shoot making sure its in focus, composed nicely and lighting/exposure is good too. nothing worse than getting back home to find your beautiful shot isn't what you thought 
  2. Keep the shot steady - tripod and monopod see above. 
  3. Plan the edit - we shoot 5 hours of footage to make a 24 minute program. The edit usually takes as long as the shooting for us.
You've cruised for 23 years. That is a long time! What's your secret for not getting burned out on boating?

Our secret for not getting burned out on boating is to take "time out". Our first cruise was a full-time 3-year Atlantic Circle and by the end of it we were travel-weary. We weren't appreciating things the way we had at the beginning. Language barriers became frustrating instead of exciting and challenging. We knew it was time to go home. After a year back in Canada with family and friends our enthusiasm was restored and we headed out again. 

We find being on the move constantly for 2-3 years is hard on people. People usually need a break at that point. Some people worry, that when they feel that way, they are giving up on the dream and lifestyle. But it's not that. You just need to stop in a place for a while, for a season usually, to be in one place and know how it works and where things are and just "belong" for a while. You can get things done. Cruisers do this by "wintering" in the Med or "summering" in Grenada during hurricane season or going home for a few months each year. Or even longer if they need a real break or circumstances change. But you've got the bug. You head out again re-charged and happy once more. 

8) What's once piece of advice you wish you got before you started cruising?

That cruising can become an unbreakable habit :-)

9) What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of living a nomadic lifestyle?

Initially the most challenging aspect of living a nomadic lifestyle was the difficulty in communicating with home and work while cruising. But we started cruising in 1989 when there were no cell phones, e-mail or internet. We had to rely on coin-operated phone booths or phone centres. At that time, we were thrilled when we could send someone a fax from a post office! We spent hundreds of dollars mailing out printed newsletters several times a year. Now with internet access, skype, satellite phones, etc. that's no longer a problem. And with cheap airfare it's easy to get home or have people come to you if you're missing each other.

10) What's your "dream destination" or have you already been there?

We have been to so many great places - making the television show means we need to keep moving on to new places, but that has helped us to find the best in every place we cruise! The Bahamas are probably our top spot, but Greece and Turkey are right up there!


If you would like to win Season 5 and Season 6 (a total of six DVD's) which cover all of the places we have sailed (and much more!) most you must do two things:

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