All those last minute things to do before leaving the dock for an extended cruise. It is such an exciting time. Filling the fuel and water tanks to capacity. Lashing extra fuel and water to the deck in jerry jugs. Securing all items on deck, bicycles, surfboards, kayaks, jerry jugs, anchors, etc. Stocking up on stores: food, toiletries, clean linens, rum! Checking the route, the weather, the charts… Paying up all debts, arranging mail forwarding or holding, getting up to date on prescriptions and immunizations, saying goodbyes…Stowing all items properly to prevent chaos and injury in a rolling sea. Items must be lashed down or behind locked cabinet doors. Having most meals prepared in advance for offshore passages, so whoever is on watch has only to unwrap and eat. This takes pressure off the crew to prepare meals while underway. Make sure the Dramamine is on hand for the crew and a bit a rum for the captain. Run jacklines on the deck and get the harnesses and life vests ready for offshore passages. File a floatplan with family and authorities. Have good books and good music ready. Stash a little, but not too much, cash. Get the foul weather gear out and ready to don quickly. Make sure all lines are able to run free and sails will be unobstructed when you are ready to unfurl or raise them. If it’s cold, have appropriate clothing to keep warm. If it’s warm, keep the sunscreen and shade handy. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. This is easier said than done. Discuss with captain and crew what sort of watch schedule you’ll be keeping. Use a watch with an alarm to let you know when it’s time to take over, and wake up. Make sure your radio, VHF, Epirb, ditch bag, life raft are functional and ready to use in an emergency. Check the weather, check the weather, check the weather. The weather decides your schedule, not you!
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!