Monthly Archives: January 2008

Route Planning

imgp1439.jpgOne of my favorite aspects of planning for an extended cruise, or even just a simple day sail to a new anchorage is reviewing the charts and visualizing the possibilities.  Being the captain of Puff, these options must be reviewed in order to take into account each and every possibility.  Of course these options must be reviewed with the crew, but in the end the safest and most reasonable route is left to my discretion.  There are so many variables to take into account when planning a passage and as long as a timeline is not trying to be met you can find yourself in some wonderful places simply by being blown in that direction.  As all sailors know, sailboats (at least most cruising boats) don’t point nearly as well as we plan.  Therefore along with the inevitable windshifts, one cannot be too headstrong to reach a certain destination.  Of course there are those glorious downwind sails where the apparent wind feels light and the sun warms your skin, but for those days when the wind is not aft of the beam one needs to have options in order to retain sanity.  Pouring over the charts the night before and seeing all the possibilities is one of by favorite aspects of living on a sailboat.  A good rum drink and all the possible charts spread out before me just gets my mind running.  Thinking about the possible wind shifts, tides upon departure and arrival, what the surrounding land will really look like, how the ocean swell might refract into the anchorage, the possibility of arriving in the dark, so many variables to think about and options to have just in case.  So many times I’ve planned a route only to find the wind is just a little to much on the nose. Option 1: Tack into the wind and calculate the new time to reach the destination (always a disappointment), Option 2: Choose a new destination and fall off on a more comfortable heading (usually the best option, just take into account for the wind shift for your next day of sailing).  Whatever it ends up being it’s always easier to face the facts if you’ve reviewed the options the night before.  Reviewing the charts and planning the passage gives you a better sense of time required to reach the destination, but it also helps you visualize what to expect once you arrive.  The more you sail to new anchorages the more you can picture what the new harbor will look like in comparison to the charts.  Sometimes the land you had been planning on seeking shelter behind during a blow is nothing but marsh leaving you totally exposed to the brunt of the wind. Other times the ideal looking anchorage has a swell wrapping in and upon anchoring the surge rolling under the boat makes for an uncomfortable rocky-rolly night. With more and more experience these unforseen possibilities can be realized and avoided, which make life on board much better for both captain and crew.  I mean who wouldn’t want to pull into an ideal anchorage in the lee of the wind, with no swell rolling you around, and before it gets dark-  even if it wasn’t your first choice?! There’s always tomorrow. 

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Steps To Take To Prepare To Go Cruising

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So, you want to go cruising, you’re determined, your mind is made up, you’re doing it. Okay, so you can begin by shopping around for boats. Determine your price range and go look at as many boats as you can. Increase you knowledge on what to look for in a cruising boat by reading books and talking to people who know boats. One of the biggest roadblocks to going cruising and enjoying it, is debt. Try not to go into debt when you buy your boat, or if you must, draw up a plan where you’re able to pay it off in five years and then take off. You can do this by putting in extra time working or buying a boat that is older, used, or in need of repair. It’s a balancing act, just make sure the time spent working on the boat doesn’t outweigh the time that could be spent making the money to afford a better boat or paying someone else to do the job while you work even more to sock away money to cruise on. Incidentally, this cruising savings is also known as the cruising kitty. Back to the topic of debt, it is best not to have bills to pay while you are cruising. Chances are, you won’t be able to make money while you’re out there so you either pay off all your debt before you leave OR you pay it for a predetermined amount of time, say 6 months. Then you cruise for 6 months, and return to work and do it all over again… work twice as hard to pay off debt, maintain the boat, and feed the cruising kitty. That is what my husband and I have always done. It’s a lifestyle we enjoy. Working twice as hard is easy to do when you think that it will only last for 6 months and then you’re sailing away to a place where there is no work for 6 months. We’ve done this in varying time frames, from working 1 year and cruising 8 months to working 3 months and cruising 6 months. You find your own rhythm. Some people rent their home while they are away, some people sell their home. You usually get a friend or family member to handle your mail, or you can pay a service to that for you. They have them just for cruisers. This takes care of your financial obligations and other business. So, you get your boat, you familiarize yourself with all the systems, you sail it as often as possible, learn to navigate, you pay off debt, you build your cruising kitty, what else? This part is really fun. You plan your cruise, which is actually a big no-no. You can’t actually schedule anything, and that’s the beauty of it. But you can come up where you want to go, then produce a flexible timeline of how to get there. Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes is an indispensable resource in this stage of the game. You will also need charts and guidebooks for the areas you are planning to cruise. A great place to get these cheap is either used off Amazon.com, or if there is a boating consignment store near you, you can find great deals on anything you need, including charts and guidebooks. We have been to large warehouse type stores in Annapolis, MD and on the Florida East Coast that have been treasure troves of savings that are even worth traveling a distance to check out. Check your local marinas and boating associations for info on local marine flea markets or for sale by individual flyers. You can find great deals on gear and equipment this way and meet your local boating community while you’re at it. Once you have all your new toys, your debt squared away, you feel comfortable on your boat, and you know where you’re going and how to get there, you can start checking off your final lists and countdown to D-Day, departure day!

How To Select Your Cruising Sailboat

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There is much to address here, however, since this the How to Go Cruising…NOW! blog, safety and cost come first. In order to go cruising now, you do the best you can with what you have right now. A good cruising boat should first and foremost be seaworthy. That means it should be able to perform in adverse conditions, as well as those perfect sailing days we all dream of. You’re going to look for the integrity of construction. Whether the hull is fiberglass, aluminum, steel, wood, or ferrocement, it must have been constructed with quality in mind. You can get a survey done of the boat before you buy it. If that is not in your budget, then get a book on how to survey a boat and attempt to do it yourself. If you have a mechanically minded friend, bring them along to help spot deficiencies. Fiberglass hulls are easy to repair and simple to care for. I would recommend a fiberglass hull for a beginner. Now, the books about buying a new boat are going to tell you all sorts of guidelines that you must follow or risk getting burned. I’m here to tell you that if you have a limited budget, you’re not going to be able to follow all of their advice. As long as you’re prepared to work, learn and do things yourself then you are ready to buy your boat. The more learning, work and hands on projects you do, the better cruiser you will be anyway. I have had friends with towboat companies and the Coast Guard say that they rescue more people with really expensive boats and all the high tech, top dollar equipment than people who are on more low key, simple, even smaller boats. Boating really levels the playing field economically. A bigger and more expensive boat isn’t going to help you survive an ocean passage, only your personal skill level can do that. My point is, a lot of people pay others to do everything for them, survey the boat, repair the boat, maintain the boat. Unless you’re going to hire professional crew to operate the boat, it is best you begin doing what you can for yourself now. Real cruising is about self-sufficiency to me. Of course, if you feel you need an expert and you can afford one, go for it. I’m just trying to promote what I see as an essential trait of a successful, safe and happy cruiser. In addition to quality construction, you’ll want to take a look at what kind of rig the boat has, how many sails, and do a bit of research into the history of the performance of the type of boat. It’s a very personal choice, and nothing is more personal that the boats’s overall looks. Many people fall in love with a boats lines, but think about function, safety, and performance. Evaluate your personal needs. Just doing coastal cruising? Then you don’t need the capacity to store a ton of fuel, food and water. If you’re planning extensive offshore passages, you’ll need extra storage. If you’re single and you really want to escape, you have the most options. There are lots of quality boats for sale in the Caribbean that are cheap enough to pay cash for, relatively simple to work on, and plenty of room for one person. If you have a partner or a family, it’s a joint decision because everyone is going to have to live with this. Again, being stubborn about waiting until you can afford your dream boat is a pitfall. If you want to cruise now, be flexible, make doing it your top priority. Do it now, the best you can, with what you have. Compromise and promise yourself you will move up to your dreamboat someday. After all, once you get some real cruising experience, all of your priorities will change anyway. You might hate it and be glad you didn’t waste more money. You might change your mind about the way you want to do things… leave yourself some growing room.

Why Would Anyone Want to Go Cruising?

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Most of us don’t need reasons why we should go cruising.

Right off the top there’s traffic, crowds, the boss, smog, noise and rules, rules, and more rules. You won’t escape these things entirely by going cruising, but you’ll see a lot less of them for long stretches of time. And you gain a sense of freedom, excitement, and adventure that can hardly be found by dutifully going to the same job every day, following the same routine when you come home, and waking up and doing it all over again. Wouldn’t you rather decide whether to have snapper or lobster for dinner, rum or gin in your sundowner, my cockpit

or yours instead of what to buy at the grocery store for dinner,

which TV channel to stop on for more than 30 seconds, and whether or not you should have another beer because that might be too many carbs for someone who lives the majority of their life as a sedentary, indoor individual? There is nothing like the satisfaction of living a self-sufficient life. We live in a “nanny society” where we can pay anyone to do anything for us, so we don’t have to do it ourselves. We don’t have to care for or teach our children, maintain our property, or even our bodies for that matter, in this day and age of cosmetic and corrective surgery. When you find yourself living on your boat in some remote part of the world, you are forced to figure out whatever situation you may face. I know how to clean, anestheticize and stitch up a wound. I know a little about a lot of things like engine repair, dentistry, weather reading, electronics, sewing, and how to catch and cook my own dinner. Living this way, you realize, this is how life was truly meant to be. The natural word IS the real world, not the identical boxes and crowded infrastructure we force upon ourselves. The beauty of a sunset, an approaching storm, a seabird dipping and circling over the waves. I know why I go cruising, it makes me feel alive.