Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Awesome Sailing People: Ten Questions for Paul and Sheryl Shard of Distant Shores

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 their incredible 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 deal and 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!

For more from Distant Shores, please visit their website, "like" their Facebook Page, and listen to them "tweet" on Twitter.


Unknown said...

K, shared it on our FB page /sailingjourney. We deserve these DVD's 'cause we are leaving on our first cruise in ONE MONTH and we can use all the help we can get! We promise to pay it forward! <3 Drena

A day in the life of Arden Astin said...

Sharing away here! WE would absolutely love to have these videos onboard our S/V Catherine. We are a family of four living aboard and gearing up (two little girls)to leave for Virgin Gorda from NYC next month. We are professionally NYC based musicians taking our musical act, Stell and Snuggs to the water...We pushed our cruising plans FAST forward after losing our home in the Rockaways to Hurricane Sandy on October 29th, and spent all winter looking for the most suitable boat for our family and musical gear. This would be a great add to our library,as we are hip to producing music for videos, documentaries, and short films( we have worked on videos,beer commercials(Corona, actually), and a European sports drink with our music publishing company. Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy post, but we would be really grateful! Thanks,
Christel(Stell:flutes, uke)
Jarad (Snuggs: keys, accordion)
Arden and Riley (2,11)
Bert (Arden's ball python....sheesh)

RichC said...

Brenda and I would love to watch them AND then pass the DVDs forward. It would be interesting if you started a sign in "log sheet" and a request to "pass them along" just to see where they go. (if you included your blog, who knows it might not be half bad marketing to boot!)

Douglas Pratt said...

I would love to win the DVDs of Distant Shores. I am at the beginning of the dream of setting off cruising. My wife and I are starting to look for our first boat. I certainly hope to win so that she and I can share a few cold nights this winter dreaming in front of the television. My email is prattdouglas@yahoo.com

Ted & Cyntia Creamean said...

My wife and I started following twostep/distantshores a long time ago. Its good to see them crossover in some of our favorite blogs. We have seen them pop up on ZTC now on Windtraveler it shows how small the world really is. We like the interview with a crusier style of this post(that was a fav blog too). We wanted ask them the same questions good to see it come to life. We own seasons 5 and 6 they are top notch enjoy!

Deb said...

Shared on our blog and linked. We would love to have these DVDs because we're sitting here on the hard waiting for the truck to take us to Annapolis next week to start our cruising life. The house is rented, all the stuff is sold, the bottom is painted...we're ready to go! We haven't had a TV for 11 years so we've never seen the show and would absolutely love to see it as we begin this new life.

S/V Kintala

Chad said...

Brittany, I have read every one of your posts, but I am not nearly as fortunate as the other commenters. I do not own a boat yet. I am not currently cruising, nor will I be able to within the next few years. I do plan on it, but I have to live (AND LEARN!) vicariously through your blog postings in the meanwhile. I am crewing regularly just North of your hometown, so I am learning a lot, and I think that I could learn a lot more by watching the Shard's DVDs. I would love the opportunity to keep the dream alive and the vivid videos and learning opportunities would help pass the time until I can sail to Distant Shores myself.

w e 9 v @ Q T H . COM

Ken and Cathy said...

We really need to get as much advice from all of you really awesome experienced people doing this full time. We take possession of our boat in 2 weeks and take off next year. Can't wait to get out there with all of you. Please Windtraveler pick us, pick us. caparsons@charter.net

conrad said...

Thanks Brittany, Scott and Isla for another informative and inspiring post. As you may remember from previous emails, I am restoring an aluminum schooner (making sails, rope stropped blocks, wormed parceled and served galvanized rigging, pouring lead) with plans to move aboard and travel once my farm here in Vt sells. I read your blog daily. It helps keep me going in a dead housing market! A large part of the project and lifestyle for me is about an insatiable quest for knowledge. There's always something to be learned from another's (different) experience. Thanks for sharing the way you do and introducing us to others who do also!
I can't say that I deserve these videos but I certainly can say that I want them! Days are getting short. Winter is coming and its time to prepare!

Magda said...

I'd love to get these as...my boyfriend and I are working on refurbishing our, very neglected, Lord Nelson 41 sloop. Once finished the refurb (hopefully within 2 years), we'll head out down south (Carib), then back up to Greenland, NorthWest Passage, and then...well, I'm hoping for the South Pacific sometime as well. I've known of Paul and Sheryl for a while but didn't know they had a tv show. I'm hoping that the dvds would help us narrow down some places that we'd want to visit.

And I love reading your blog, thank you for your time and effort. :)

Email: msiemi at yahoo dot com

Paul & Terri said...

Life is about risks and taking those risks. The foolish person, risks everything without thought, regard for personal safety or much planning; the wise person risks just as much, but minimizes his disaster by planning, thought and wise choses. Both live life, but one lives long enough to share his experiences with his grandchildren!
This set of DVD’s would be invaluable to our learning curve and to help minimize our future risk taking. Our plan is to have plenty of stories to share with our grandchildren and thus keep the dream of cruising alive for generations to come. Help us, help them……..Seabee2nd@aol.com

Linz said...

I first met my boyfriend 10 years ago - our second date was sailing on a local lake in a handmade 20' redwood strip trimaran sailing canoe. Since then we've shared the dream of sailing to distant shores together on larger boats. In the meantime, we have taken this same 20' trimaran canoe on month long sail-camping expeditions in the San Juan Islands and along the Baja peninsula. I've watched some of the Distant Shores video trailers on vimeo and really loved how they spark the imagination. They fill a void that existed in the "good sailing video" category and I've longed to see more... but we're saving every penny for the bigger boat!

Linz said...

Oh yes, and I retweeted this giveaway and my email is lindsey.a.w.b@gmail.com

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

What a remarkable and adventurous journey. Paul and Sheryl, your courage and achievements inspire us. After reading your blog and evaluating your ‘challenge’ below, we thought it best to provide you with a ‘compelling resume’ to convince you that, well.... we just truly really, really need any help we can get.
Personality profiles:
He is very playful, energetic, high-spirited, and sometimes impulsive. She is very committed, a good planner, but anxious type. She has this ‘creative’ ability to anticipate possible problems in the future. The one thing they do have in common is a crazy dream (he started it) to travel the world and have fun together. “She said she can go any place in the world with me.” He said, ‘smiling’ cheerfully.
He is a carpenter, she is a financial consultant. We know it sounds very different but we strongly believe opposites attract (they love each other passionately). He has a skipper’s license, she has none.
He built his own boat; a 14 ft gaff sloop dinghy named ‘Kurkprop’ (meaning ‘cork plug’). He has sufficient sailing experience. He sailed from Maputo in Mozambique over Delagoa Bay to Inchaka Island a couple of times and back. Sometimes in stormy weather arriving with loud cheers from onlookers and hysterical relieve from the family. She took the ferry with the kids.
We have sailed all around Inhaca Island on Kurkprop and by having your own boat, however small; we experienced a freedom that was idyllic, but extremely catching. We have also sailed to Pansy Island in Mozambique and experienced this disappearing island with wonder. And we have the ‘pics’ to prove it (We will not be able to show all, because some of them are starfish censored).
The world map is up on the wall next to the dinner table and the twelve year planning has started (the little one is only six years old now). But as you can see, we are going to need all the help we can get! (She still needs a couple of drinks before she can step onto the boat when the wind speed exceeds 10 knots.)
Please, may you kindly bestow some ‘honest’ additional advice to us before we embark on our sailing journey?
Herco and Amanda
Centurion, South Africa

Anonymous said...

I have been a fan of distant shores for several years now and have seen pretty much all of their shows and have been anxiosuly awaiting their new shows to come out that are currently in production. In fact I am/was such a fan of theirs I flew to Chicago all the way from Texas to the strictly sail Chicago show to hear their seminar. I finally got to meet in person the folks that inspired me to get back into sailing and make my dream a reality. Sheryl was a very nice and sweet person and pleasure to talk to. I unfortunately cant say the same about Paul. I wanted to meet him as well and shake his hand and tell them how much I loved their show and how they inspired me but his unfriendliness and rudeness shocked me and I couldnt even get out half of the words and nice things I wanted to say about their show as he was snapping and cutting me off mid sentence. I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was having a bad day or something, but I will definitely think twice about watching anymore of their shows. I did however get to meet somne other folks who are very inspirational...the president and first lady of sailing...Lin & Larry Pardey, one of the most experienced sailing couples in the world. They were super sweet and the genuine article! I bought some of their books and dvd's and they autographed my book and I got a picture with them. THAT is how to treat your fans!!

Jenny said...


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