I recently came back to land after a thoroughly enjoyable armchair adventure with Mary and Bruce Trimble on their sailboat Impunity. Sailing With Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific is a story of a dream fulfilled for two very courageous and adventurous people. I hung on every word, from the chilling opening with “Man Overboard” and the life-threatening storms to the delightful, lazy days in tropical harbors and the new friends they made.
Welcome, Mary. You certainly have had an adventurous life, from living in Hawaii to the Peace Corps in the Gambia, to serving the Red Cross, to this 18-month sailing odyssey. Is this bold “venturesomeness” a part of your DNA, so to speak, something you always aspired to?
Mary: I love adventure. Right after I was born, my dad picked up my mother and me from the hospital and, along with my three year-old sister, we went camping. I guess that set the pace.
How did you and Bruce come to the decision to quit your jobs, sell your house and buy a sailboat to sail around the world?
Mary: We were both at a period in our lives that we longed for change. I loved my job as a computer/analyst at Safeco Insurance Company, and Bruce had a good job, too, working in the marine electronics field. But we knew how strenuous sailing is and decided that if we were going to do it, that was the time.
Sailing, to the uninitiated, sounds so romantic, peaceful and fun. Did you anticipate the possible dangers of this trip, and how did you prepare?
Mary: To tell you the truth, I had thought of this as a sort of luxury cruise. Bruce knew better. It wasn’t a luxury, though there were some lovely periods. But life at sea is hard work and can be downright dangerous. We prepared for some of the possibilities by having drills, such as the “man overboard” drill. We wore safety equipment; i.e. life vests and safety lines (tethers attached to the person and to the boat). We put rules in place such as no changing sails alone—the other person always needed to be present. Someone was always on deck and responsible for the boat, so we stood four hours on, four hours off, watch schedules.
What was the worst part of your trip?
Mary: Going along the U.S. west coast was pretty rough, but I guess the worst part was Cyclone Ofa that we experienced while in Samoa. The storm lasted for about 36 hours. We stayed aboard Impunity to do what we could to protect our boat.
How about the best part(s)?
Mary: Some legs of the journey had good winds and calm seas. We would scoot silently along with a minimum of work on our part. That was glorious. The night stars were wondrous and felt so close. Our companionship with each other was a real plus. We never tired of each other’s company.
What advice would you give someone who wants to experience this type of adventure?
Mary: Be prepared! We were appalled at how many people undertake this journey unprepared. It took a lot of work and planning, but we had food enough to last the journey, supplementing with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat or fish at various ports of call. Food can be expensive in the South Pacific. Also, Bruce stowed spares of anything that could possibly go wrong—spare pumps, seals, screws, sail repair equipment, etc. These are simple steps, but important for a safe trip.
How do you fulfill your adventuresome spirit now that you are “retired”?
Mary: Actually, we’re not retired. I am a full-time writer. Sailing with Impunity is my fifth book and second memoir. Bruce is still working, though retirement is hopefully not too far off.
A prolific writer, Trimble draws on personal experiences including purser and ship’s diver aboard the tall ship, M.S. Explorer, two years with the Peace Corps in West Africa, and a 13,000-mile South Pacific sailing trip aboard their Bristol 40, Impunity.
Mary Trimble’s recently published memoir, Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific is about their 14-month sailing adventure, from magical sights and scents of their first island landfall to the bustling, colorful Tahitian markets. From sudden midnight squalls and weathering a cyclone in Samoa to pristine anchorages in the Kingdom of Tonga.
An award-winning freelance writer, Trimble’s other works include Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps, a story of a newly married couple who discover themselves in new light as they work and learn about a third-world culture. Tenderfoot, a romantic suspense with a sub-plot of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. Tenderfoot won finalist with Western Writers of America for Best Western Long Novel. Her coming-of-age novels, Rosemount and McClellan’s Bluff have been met with enthusiastic acclaim.
Trimble lives on Camano Island with her husband, Bruce.