We have now been living ashore for a year with, all going well, six months to go. And, while we’re enjoying focusing on new and different things other than voyaging (mostly this site), we’re starting to get a serious Jones on for the liveaboard cruising life that we have been privileged to enjoy for so long.
And that got me thinking about what it takes to get out there in the first place or to get back out after a break. So here are 10 tips:
#1 Don’t Do Refits
Ok, this definitely comes under the category of do as I say, not as I do, considering that I have done three major refits in my life. (And yes refits do teach you a lot about your boat.)
But based on that very experience I can tell you categorically that I would have spent way more time cruising in my life to date, if, rather than messing with refits, I had focused my energies on my real job, which would have resulted in making more money more quickly that I could have been put into a newer boat that didn’t need a refit in the first place.
Further, in most cases, refitted old boats end up costing more than better newer boats of the same specification. Yes, even if you do it yourself. More here.
Of course if the total-suck-situation of the world economy has left you without a decent real job, and you are seriously handy (don’t underestimate this requirement), then refitting could make sense. But even then you may find you’re better off buying an old boat that some other poor SOB has already refitted.
#2 Keep It Simple
This seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often I see people struggling with super complex boats instead of actually going somewhere. The problem seems to be the desire to have all the mod-cons and comforts they had onshore. That’s not the way to get out there. Cruising is a simpler life than onshore. And no, it’s not as physically comfortable as living in a house. Embrace that and get out there.
#3 Learn to Differentiate a Need From a Want
Easy to say, hard to do. Here’s a reliable test that you can apply.
#4 Read The Old Masters
There are more, but that will give you a starter reading list. My personal favourites are the books by Peter Pye, probably because I was privileged, as a boy, to know and sail with the Pyes.
By the way, a quick digression for no good reason other than that it’s fun: My grandfather used to tell a lovely story about a conversation that he overheard between Peter Pye and Eric Hiscock at the launching party for the Hiscocks’ Wanderer III.
Eric asked Peter what he thought of Wanderer and I guess Peter was less than effusive with his praise and then trailed off with “never mind Eric, I’m sure you would not want to go around the world in Moonraker” (the Pye’s venerable converted fishing boat). Eric replied “Peter, I wouldn’t cross the Solent in Moonraker!” I believe the two men never really got along that well…wonder why?
#5 Don’t Be a New Gear Pioneer
#6 Don’t Varnish
Boats are beautiful and it is always tempting to embellish that with varnish, teak decks and polished stainless steel. But the bottom line is that none of that contributes a damned thing to actually getting out there.
And it’s amazing how much energy and conversation is expended in the cruising world on meaningless cosmetics, but it is telling to note that those who have actually done the miles rarely have much time for that stuff, or much of it on their boats.
If you do have a lot of wood to varnish, I can give you a 100% guaranteed tip to make it easier.
Having said all that, if you want to make your boat look like a piece of fine furniture for the sheer joy of it—you sicko, you—go for it, just don’t delude yourself into thinking that you are doing anything useful in the quest to get out there voyaging. More here.
#7 Set Realistic Goals
It’s amazing to me how often people who are trying to get out there voyaging say things like ”we are going to cross the Atlantic” or the new latest fad “we are going to transit the Northwest Passage”. But the fact is that to accomplish either of these goals, at least in a seamanlike manner, you need to build up to them with easier voyages first (and that goes quadruple for The Passage).
The point being that you will get out there sooner and have a better time doing it if you set realistic goals like a cruise of the Bahamas, for east coast North Americans, or a cruise of Scotland, for Europeans, as a start—both can be plenty challenging, even for those of us with decades of experience.
By the way, the quickest way to brand yourself as inexperienced is to say “we are going to sail to…”. Experienced sailors with miles under their belts always say things like “we are bound for…” or “if all goes well…we hope…maybe…with a bit of luck…if the God(s) smile…”. Never take the sea for granted, sooner or later she will punish you for your hubris.
#8 Sail Offshore With Other People
#9 Divide the Tasks
If you are a couple, divide the tasks that need to be accomplished between you, according to each person’s strengths. If you both try to understand, do, and become equally competent at all the things that need to get done to get out there, you will waste countless months, or maybe years.
I know this is in exact contradiction to the accepted wisdom as espoused by the yachting mags. But it’s not theory—more on how to do this, and still be safe here.
#10 Live In An Uncomfortable House
Phyllis and I have made a conscious decision to keep our shore base simple and not a little uncomfortable. That way we don’t risk building a “beloved prison” that would hold us back from getting out there.
If you want to make sure you stay focused on the goal, move into a small and cramped cabin or apartment, even if you can afford better. And if you want to really make sure you concentrate and work hard on getting out there, add in a large contingent of indoor wild life—ours are spiders and long horned spruce beetles, with the occasional mouse and squirrel for variety.
#11 Special Bonus Tip
And last, but most important, there are only five things that really matter in preparing to go ocean cruising:
- Keep the water out
- Keep the crew on the boat
- Keep the keel side down
- Keep the mast up
- Keep the rudder on
The rest is small stuff.
Are you already out there cruising? If so, do you have any tips to add? Are you trying to get out there and have a question on what to do to make it happen? Please leave a comment.