One 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.