Tag Archives: sailing

Preparing To Cast Off the Docklines

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!      


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. 

Why Would Anyone Want to Go Cruising?



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.